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The AV Club talks autobiographical comics: the Chester, Joe, and Seth trio

Updated January 10, 2012


December 15, 2011
Sam Adams

The ’90s saw a boom in autobiographical comics, spearheaded by the Torontonian triumvirate of Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth. Brown and Matt quickly became notorious for their willingness to portray their most unflattering characteristics, from penny-pinching to pornography addiction. Their recent books, Paying For It and Spent, bring that tendency to a boil, the former dealing with Brown’s extensive history of using prostitutes for sex, the latter with Matt’s compulsive masturbation. But a less forbidding route to their respective bodies of work can be found in I Never Liked You and Fair Weather, childhood reminiscences that are just as soul-baring and substantially less off-putting than their tales of adulthood.


 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Seth
Joe Matt

           Featured products

Fair Weather (PB)
Spent
Paying For It




  JOE MATT interviewed by Sook-Yin Lee on CBC's Definitely Not the Opera

Updated June 11, 2008


DEFINITELY NOT THE OPERA
CBC Radio
2008/05/10

How do you sum up a life? That's the question we ask this week as we look at "biography."

To start, Sook-Yin will go to the streets to get your 30-second autobiographies and talk about why you left out what you left out.

We'll hear from the guy who wrote the book on biographies two of them, actually. When does our right to know become and invasion of privacy? Nigel Hamilton will come by to talk about the ethics of biography.

The wedding speech is a great way to sum up a couple's pre-marriage life. Unless you're under a gag order. Lisha Hassanali will share her story of the story-less wedding.

Sandee Moore is a visual artist who took a unique approach to telling people's life stories. As an art project, she asked people to tell her their stories - then enacted them - and then showed them their lives, as enacted by her. We'll ask her what she learned about the way we sum up our own stories.

We'll hear from Peepshow cartoonist Joe Matt, who takes an unflinching approach to autobiography in his comics, on why he likes the "warts and all" approach.

We'll ask Joe to lend his vocal talents to the latest round of Parlour Games.

And we'll hear a live-in-studio tune from Christine Fellows, who based her latest album on another kind of biography - the obituary.

And more music from Ben Folds Five, the Acorn, Grand Analog, and the Pretty Things.
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

          



JOE MATT mentioned by Aimee Mann on LAist

Updated April 30, 2008


APRIL 29, 2008
LAist Interview: Aimee Mann
...

Can you reveal anything about the graphic novel you’re working on?

I haven’t really started working on it. Right now I’m just practicing drawing and cartooning, and I’ve gotten some great help from cartoonist Joe Matt, who lives right down the street from me. At this point, what I do is I take friends’ conversations and try to draw them so I can get into the practice of animating dialogue.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SPENT reviewed by Metapsychology

Updated February 22, 2008


Review - Spent
Review by Christian Perring
Jan 29th 2008
METAPSYCHOLOGY

Much of Joe Matt's work is autobiographical, and he doesn't hold back on the unpleasant details of his life. Spent covers a period in his life when he lives in Toronto. He spends his time annoying his friends, searching for old comic strips, editing the men out of hard core pornography, and masturbating as many times as he can in a given time period. Occasionally he makes comics about his life and about how boring his comics are. He is neurotic and goes out of his way to make himself look pretty bad. The artwork is 8 cells per page, with bold lines and vigorous lines. The only coloring is green. There's a tradition in comics and comedy to highlight the most unappealing aspects of people, and Matt takes it to an extreme. It can be funny, but it's an acquired taste.
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




JOE MATT interviewed by Inkstuds (part 2)

Updated January 10, 2008


Joe Matt (Part 2)
INKSTUDS
January 3rd, 2008
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

          



  JOE MATT interviewed by Inkstuds (part 1)

Updated January 10, 2008


Joe Matt (Part 1)
INKSTUDS
January 3rd
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

          



SPENT reviewed by Broken Frontier

Updated January 10, 2008


Misery Loves Company
Beth Davies-Stofka
BROKEN FRONTIER
December 10, 2007

I banged into the neighborhood comics shop last night, announcing, "I'm looking for a comic book by Joe Matt. I don't know the title. All I know is that it starts with an S." This shop shelves alphabetically by title. The clerk's face glazed over, and so I said hopefully, "I guess I'll just go through all the S's, hoping I can find it?" "Yeah, that's about all we can do," he replied. He pretended to help me for a bit, and then went back to surfing at DC's website. I found Spent, pounced, and took it up to the desk. Holding it up so he could see the cover, I gleefully announced, in a loud, clear voice, "Isn't this great! This is exactly how I look at the end of the day!"

I'm a naughty, wicked woman. I know.

The thing is, I'm comfortable with sex. I really enjoy sexual expression. I'm not going to hate a graphic memoir because it's about a porn addict.

It's more likely that I'll hate a graphic memoir because it's a graphic memoir. Crumb, Pekar, Spiegelman, and Satrapi aside, I really believe that by default, comics artists should avoid writing graphic memoirs. (Come to think of it, we could do with less prose memoirs, too.) So I was prepared to loathe Spent.

Joe Matt was prepared for me to loathe it, too. In the cruel tirade he aims at himself as he paces his tiny dump of a room, he imagines what his disappointed readers will say. "He has no self-awareness or insight," they'll say…and they'll be right.

I read the strip from the back cover first. Two lovely young women see the book, misinterpret the title and the cover, and read it eagerly, expecting a memoir of a shopaholic. As the reality of the book's subject becomes clear, they are utterly disgusted, calling Matt "the world's biggest, ugliest loser." We then see Matt, having heard the whole exchange, dejected, crying a single, lonely tear.

I had a childlike surge of pity and vowed that I would not call Matt a loser. I stubbornly dug in to like this memoir. And I did. I liked it a lot. It has so much self-awareness and insight that you might find yourself begging for mercy.

Spent collects issues #11-14 of Matt's comic book series, Peepshow. And it is really quite brilliant, the whole thing working as a kind of inside joke that anyone can get. It is everything a peep show could be, burlesque, caricature, farce, lampoon, mockery, parody, satire, send-up, and travesty. The skin show is ongoing, but implied, Matt preferring to keep the reader focused on his inner dialogue about his obsessions, not the obsessions themselves.

The four issues of Peepshow appear here as four parts, each labeled with the location and year. Beyond those labels, the unbroken routine of 8 monochromatic panels per page gives almost nothing away, not the season, nor even the time of day. Spent isn't a story, either, but an exposé. A risky one, at that, since the self-image Matt presents is so intensely pathetic and unlikeable. He spends most of his time alone, yet talks out loud to himself constantly. He is mean and sometimes even cruel to women and cats, and exploits his friends for personal gain. He's a miser in love with money and yet he's lazy and does little to earn any. He lets his dreams of wealth, his addiction to porn, and his hatred of human imperfections drive him to become a vile wretch who would rather pee in a bottle than leave his room.

Joe Matt is the ultimate wanker, not only in the colloquial sense of complete self-absorption, but in that other way, too.

Spent would be easier to judge if I thought it were made up, but it's got that pesky label, "graphic memoir." It’s tempting to be like the girls on the back cover and judge Joe Matt the person. But the main figure in Spent is not Joe Matt. It is a carefully-constructed cartoon version of Joe Matt. To read Spent is not to judge the man, but the artist. And Joe Matt the artist is a riot. This book is really awful, very funny, and almost perfect.

Joe Matt's self-portrayal is masterfully conceived and utterly efficient. He doesn't allow even one stray detail to threaten to contradict his self-portrait. He is a totally unsympathetic and uninteresting loser. In the pages of Spent, no more is said than is absolutely necessary to completely alienate you from him. And he never attempts to justify himself to you. He ensures that you see him, arguing with his friends, coping with his dread, crying in his loneliness, screaming at his neighbor, or throwing away a cat, with the same loathing and disgust with which he views himself.

One of the funniest scenes in the book is the one where Matt spends hours dubbing pornography from one VHS tape to another, obsessively breaking favorite scenes down into second-long increments and synchronizing VCRs so that only his favorite scenes in the films are copied. He edits away any bit he doesn't like, a pan here, a close-up of a face there, until he has a perfect pornographic experience that he can visit over and over and over again. His pursuit of the perfect sexual experience prevents him from experiencing actual women, and this obsession sucks the life from his existence. Nothing ever changes. He doesn't change, his room doesn't change, and so the colors and shapes of his panels don't change.

There is no actual pornography in this book, young man. Nothing titillating, stimulating, or erotic could ever possibly appear on the pages of this miserable memoir of a miserable guy.

As a shtick, it's different. Even Dangerfield expected us to respect him. The Joe Matt of Spent hates himself, and insists that we join him. But let's hope he never produces another graphic memoir. To repeat this gem would be to dilute it. I didn’t loathe Spent. I loathe Joe Matt. How could he top that?
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The Star Tribune

Updated December 21, 2007


STAR TRIBUNE
December 10, 2007
Drawing outside the box

Standouts among this year's graphic novels -- starting with Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" -- nicely depart from the autobiographical themes that have overtaken the genre.

By ERIC M. HANSON, Star Tribune

Last update: December 21, 2007 - 10:41 AM

Writing recently in this year's edition of the "Best American Comics" anthology, cartooning cult god Chris Ware noted that there has been a backlash against the navel-gazing and self-indulgence that, some people say, rule comics today.

"Admittedly," he wrote politely, "a preponderance of autobiographical work has accrued" lately, as a legacy of such indie pioneers as Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar.

In general, I'd agree, but it's not the case when looking at the best of what's published, at least this year.

Leading that pack is Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95), probably the best work of this great writer/artist's career.

With the feel of a particularly good talky dramedy, the book tells the story of a Japanese-American couple in their early 30s whose relationship has hit a post-collegiate milestone: live together and idle, evolve or die on the vine.

Lead character Ben Tanaka is one of the year's great literary creations: negative and perpetually unsatisfied, cynical and not overly ambitious, too soft for real work and too smart to commit to a career, and too real to be wholly unsympathetic.

He's adrift and stiflingly critical of everyone around him, including his lovely girlfriend, Miko, whose tolerance for Ben's b.s. is mysteriously long-lasting and might have reached its limit as she prepares to leave California for an internship in New York City.

Ben has a thing for blond white girls, which Miko discovers when she finds a porn stash in a desk drawer. It's one of many ways Tomine uses the book's spare plot to explore racial and sexual dynamics subtly without breaking narrative stride.

"Look," Ben says. "Let's not make a big deal out of this. If it bothers you, I'll throw [the movies] out. I got them a long time ago, and. ... "

"Well, the thing that kind of bothers me is that all the girls are white," Miko says.

"That's not true," Ben says. "Look ... there's a, uh, Latina girl in this one ..."

Says Miko: "How would you like it if I was obsessed with pictures of big, muscular African-American men?"

"Yeah, right. ... " Ben says. "You reach for your pepper-spray the minute you see a black guy walking towards you on the street!"

Ben's friend, Alice Kim, provides a measure of caustic comedic relief to his soul-numbing ennui. Born in Korea, a lesbian and the daughter of conservative immigrants, Alice brings Ben to a wedding even though his ancestry is Japanese and her family despises Japanese people because of World War II.

"Still," she says, "I'm sure my family would rather see me with a Japanese boy than a Korean girl."

"So rapists and pillagers are preferable to homos," he says dryly.

"Everything is preferable to homos," she says.

Plotwise, not much happens in "Shortcomings," beyond people moving in and out of each other's lives, which in the end is what defines a lot of single people's lives in their 20s and 30s: just so many people come and gone, each day a door opening slowly on change.

"Shortcomings" is Tomine's richest and most rewarding read, packed with the most human characters he has ever created. The art is spare and meticulous, more refined than ever. Some might find it a little too stiff, the compositions of each panel too much the same from one to the next. But I think it's the perfect, uncluttered complement to the fine writing it illustrates.

War and beasts

• Also terrific this year from Canadian comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly is Israeli writer/artist Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" (172 pages, $19.95). It's the story of two people drawn together in contemporary Tel Aviv to check into the disappearance of a man who led separate identities as a father, ex-husband and lover.

• This summer, D&Q published Joe Matt's brave and weird book, "Spent" (124 pages, $19.95). It's the story of a porn-addicted chronic masturbator and misanthrope (named Joe Matt) who lives in a rooming house and is so lazy he chooses to pee into empty bottles rather than making the trip down the hall. I can't say I really liked "Spent," but (considering the author is known for doing brutally autobiographical work) I admired its naked honesty.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent
Shortcomings (HC)




SPENT reviewed by The Maneater

Updated December 10, 2007


Joe Matt puts personal issues to paper
Michael Quartano
December 07, 2007.
THE MANEATER

Joe Matt is a master of masturbating— he claims to have whacked it 20 times in less than seven hours — and graphic novels. Matt’s latest semi-autobiographical work, ‘Spent,’ chronicles his bedroom adventures.
In the world of mainstream comic books, Joe Matt isn’t a big name. You will not walk into Rock Bottom Comics and be able to find a Superman or X-Men issue penned or drawn by Matt. Instead, one has to look in the overlooked and unseen books section to find anything Matt’s released.

“Spent” is Matt’s latest work and is put out by super indie publishing company Drawn & Quarterly, whose only real competition might be Fantagraphics, and that isn’t saying much. For people who prefer to think of comics in the high-art sense, these publishers are the best. But for the regular funny-book readers, “Spent” is no Spider-Man.

Matt has some personal issues to deal with in “Spent.” The autobiographical book follows Matt as he lives illegally in Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Matt works as a cartoonist for Drawn & Quarterly. Matt rarely proves his love for his employer, as he spends more time hoarding coveted items from his friend Seth than he does putting pencil to paper and creating something worth reading.

Readers might find themselves disgusted with Matt’s character, and that might be exactly what he wants. Matt leads a rather lonely life with only three friends, none of whom he gets along with. The people Matt interacts with more or less use him just as he uses them.

There is Matt’s pornography dealer, who Matt has rented reels upon reels of VHS porn films from. Then there are Seth and Chet, fellow cartoonists who are actually making something of themselves.

Matt spends his time dubbing and editing rented porn films. He records all of his favorite scenes onto one master tape, editing out any scenes he finds unpleasing. During the latest dubbing session, Matt is up to tape No. 23. Matt might have a problem.

As someone who spends little to no time doing actual work, Matt finds himself to be rather poor and lives his life in a boarding house where he shares a bathroom with at least three other people. Matt likes his privacy, so rather than venture out to the bathroom in hopes that he won’t confront any of his housemates, Matt would rather urinate into glass jars he keeps in his room. Additionally, Matt rarely leaves his room and spends his entire day masturbating to all of his rented porn. At one point in the book, Matt decides to try to break his personal record and ends up masturbating 20 times over a span of 6 1/2 hours. Matt has too much time on his hands.

“Spent” follows a strict art format. There are eight panels per page in two columns of four. No panel is the same, and the borders are often times disjointed and misshapen.

It is the art inside the panels that excuses Matt to publish such a self-engrossed piece of work. The entire book is drawn in black, white and different shades of green. Matt’s inks bring out the sparse backgrounds of the book and highlight the simple yet elegant characters. As this book is mostly about people conversing with each other, most every panel is only half-filled with art, and the rest of the space belongs to speech bubbles.

Overall, “Spent” is a book not suited for cape-and-tights fans of comics. But if you’re looking for something different and deeply personal, the work of Matt might be right up your alley. Just wash your hands after you put it down.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SPENT reviewed by Broken Frontier

Updated December 10, 2007


Misery Loves Company
Column by Beth Davies-Stofka, posted December 10, 2007
Spent
BROKEN FRONTIER

I banged into the neighborhood comics shop last night, announcing, "I'm looking for a comic book by Joe Matt. I don't know the title. All I know is that it starts with an S." This shop shelves alphabetically by title. The clerk's face glazed over, and so I said hopefully, "I guess I'll just go through all the S's, hoping I can find it?" "Yeah, that's about all we can do," he replied. He pretended to help me for a bit, and then went back to surfing at DC's website. I found Spent, pounced, and took it up to the desk. Holding it up so he could see the cover, I gleefully announced, in a loud, clear voice, "Isn't this great! This is exactly how I look at the end of the day!"

I'm a naughty, wicked woman. I know.

The thing is, I'm comfortable with sex. I really enjoy sexual expression. I'm not going to hate a graphic memoir because it's about a porn addict.

It's more likely that I'll hate a graphic memoir because it's a graphic memoir. Crumb, Pekar, Spiegelman, and Satrapi aside, I really believe that by default, comics artists should avoid writing graphic memoirs. (Come to think of it, we could do with less prose memoirs, too.) So I was prepared to loathe Spent.

Joe Matt was prepared for me to loathe it, too. In the cruel tirade he aims at himself as he paces his tiny dump of a room, he imagines what his disappointed readers will say. "He has no self-awareness or insight," they'll say…and they'll be right.

I read the strip from the back cover first. Two lovely young women see the book, misinterpret the title and the cover, and read it eagerly, expecting a memoir of a shopaholic. As the reality of the book's subject becomes clear, they are utterly disgusted, calling Matt "the world's biggest, ugliest loser." We then see Matt, having heard the whole exchange, dejected, crying a single, lonely tear.

I had a childlike surge of pity and vowed that I would not call Matt a loser. I stubbornly dug in to like this memoir. And I did. I liked it a lot. It has so much self-awareness and insight that you might find yourself begging for mercy.

Spent collects issues #11-14 of Matt's comic book series, Peepshow. And it is really quite brilliant, the whole thing working as a kind of inside joke that anyone can get. It is everything a peep show could be, burlesque, caricature, farce, lampoon, mockery, parody, satire, send-up, and travesty. The skin show is ongoing, but implied, Matt preferring to keep the reader focused on his inner dialogue about his obsessions, not the obsessions themselves.

The four issues of Peepshow appear here as four parts, each labeled with the location and year. Beyond those labels, the unbroken routine of 8 monochromatic panels per page gives almost nothing away, not the season, nor even the time of day. Spent isn't a story, either, but an exposé. A risky one, at that, since the self-image Matt presents is so intensely pathetic and unlikeable. He spends most of his time alone, yet talks out loud to himself constantly. He is mean and sometimes even cruel to women and cats, and exploits his friends for personal gain. He's a miser in love with money and yet he's lazy and does little to earn any. He lets his dreams of wealth, his addiction to porn, and his hatred of human imperfections drive him to become a vile wretch who would rather pee in a bottle than leave his room.

Joe Matt is the ultimate wanker, not only in the colloquial sense of complete self-absorption, but in that other way, too.

Spent would be easier to judge if I thought it were made up, but it's got that pesky label, "graphic memoir." It’s tempting to be like the girls on the back cover and judge Joe Matt the person. But the main figure in Spent is not Joe Matt. It is a carefully-constructed cartoon version of Joe Matt. To read Spent is not to judge the man, but the artist. And Joe Matt the artist is a riot. This book is really awful, very funny, and almost perfect.

Joe Matt's self-portrayal is masterfully conceived and utterly efficient. He doesn't allow even one stray detail to threaten to contradict his self-portrait. He is a totally unsympathetic and uninteresting loser. In the pages of Spent, no more is said than is absolutely necessary to completely alienate you from him. And he never attempts to justify himself to you. He ensures that you see him, arguing with his friends, coping with his dread, crying in his loneliness, screaming at his neighbor, or throwing away a cat, with the same loathing and disgust with which he views himself.

One of the funniest scenes in the book is the one where Matt spends hours dubbing pornography from one VHS tape to another, obsessively breaking favorite scenes down into second-long increments and synchronizing VCRs so that only his favorite scenes in the films are copied. He edits away any bit he doesn't like, a pan here, a close-up of a face there, until he has a perfect pornographic experience that he can visit over and over and over again. His pursuit of the perfect sexual experience prevents him from experiencing actual women, and this obsession sucks the life from his existence. Nothing ever changes. He doesn't change, his room doesn't change, and so the colors and shapes of his panels don't change.

There is no actual pornography in this book, young man. Nothing titillating, stimulating, or erotic could ever possibly appear on the pages of this miserable memoir of a miserable guy.

As a shtick, it's different. Even Dangerfield expected us to respect him. The Joe Matt of Spent hates himself, and insists that we join him. But let's hope he never produces another graphic memoir. To repeat this gem would be to dilute it. I didn’t loathe Spent. I loathe Joe Matt. How could he top that?
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




SPENT reviewed by The Colorado Springs Independent

Updated December 6, 2007


JULY 19, 2007
Short Stories
Spent
COLORADO SPRINGS INDEPENDENT

Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95/ hardcover

Comic book icon Harvey Pekar (of American Splendor fame) "dug Spent."That's quite an endorsement for a self-deprecating graphic novel/ memoir about a miserable, pornography-addicted existence. Joe Matt chronicles a lifetime of awkwardness that borders on social retardation around women and details his odd, obsessive habits, like urinating in bottles in his closet to avoid the odd apartment-mates with whom he shares a bathroom. Matt's cartoon work is solid with commendable, creative panel jumps between past and present in the narrative, much like good editing in a film. But unless you can relate to chronic masturbation and neurotic comic geeks, Spent might just come off as smut. TMI, Mr. Matt. TMI. — Matthew Schniper
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SPENT, WHITE RAPIDS named Quill and Quire Book of the Year

Updated November 23, 2007



click here to download the PDF (161.16 KB)


Featured artists

Joe Matt
Pascal Blanchet

           Featured products

Spent
White Rapids




ADRIAN interview, review of WHITE RAPIDS, SPENT, DOGS AND WATER in fast forward weekly

Updated November 16, 2007


New comics, the Drawn and Quarterly edition
Adrian Tomine on his new book Shortcomings, reviews and more
Published November 15, 2007 by Bryn Evans in Books

Adrian Tomine’s self-portrait

Adrian Tomine’s cartooning ranks among the best in modern comics, each new issue adding to a mythology of lovelorn slackers, family politics and sex. His latest, Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly, 104 pp.), serialized in Optic Nerve issues 9 to 11, is the story of Ben Tanaka, a disgruntled movie theatre manager who, like most men his age raised on a steady diet of pop culture — detritus and all — lives a private life of strong opinions and hidden desires. His already-strained relationship with his girlfriend Miko becomes increasingly antagonistic, as she accuses him of wanting other women — white women.

Shortcomings is Tomine’s most expansive story yet, told more through rich visuals than words, cadenced panel compositions and his inimitable facial characterizations and expressions. Fast Forward asked Tomine about getting into comics and the creation of Shortcomings.

Fast Forward: The first Optic Nerve issues were printed in 1995, when you were 21. What inspired you to get into comics?

Adrian Tomine: I was doing some mini-comics even earlier, at age 15. Love and Rockets was my gateway drug into more artistic, personal comics.

Did you go to art school?

I had a self-guided education. I went to college in Berkley, California, as an English major. Well, I started as an art major, but quickly grew disenchanted with that. I enjoyed English more. For me, it was a good thing to learn on my own and at my own pace. I also got to know some pros when starting up that were generous with their time and very helpful.

You’ve done commercial work for The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Do you still do much of that?

I used to. It’s one of the nice things about the change in the market — getting to the point now that people can make money from comics. (Comics are) a pure labour of love, so there’s a hustle to do illustration work. Gratefully, I can now work on my comics and do commercial work that doesn’t overtake that.

Would you consider illustrating another writer’s work?

I don’t think so. It has been proposed — some high-profile stuff. Maybe the net result would be better, but the process of drawing is so slow and frustrating. I work slowly, and it would be too much work in service of something that my heart wasn’t in.

What inspired Shortcomings?

It had been kicking around for a long time, before I put pen to paper. I was feeling very aware of just how apparent my artistic influences were in my work. I was reaching a point of being frustrated at not being able to break free of that, but there’s no way that I could. Rather than immerse myself in a new drawing style, I wanted to explore new avenues of content, story and characters.

Is there a biographical element to the work?

It’s not an autobiographical work. There isn’t any type of fiction totally sprung from the artist. Because of the nature of working in this form, it’s not like you’re making statements — there’s some kind of protection from working in private. I was more worried about offending people esthetically (laughs). The pitfall I was most conscious of was running the risk of being sanctimonious.

When I started working on it, I thought, “what is it about books and art that address race that doesn’t appeal to me?” (I wanted to) build a story around that — not just art that deals with race, but anything fake, that houses simple messages and characters. I tried to create characters that felt real to me, so that any kind of thematic content was suggested, or gently emerged.

Joe Matt gives himself quite the self-loathing critique in his new work, Spent (Drawn and Quarterly, 120 pp.), another entry in the sad sack, chronically masturbating cartoonist pantheon. He’s a hugely selfish prick, but elevates the hatred with humorous, cartoony art, and the eight-panel page structure doesn’t feel cluttered.

Anders Nilsen’s latest dystopian work, Dogs and Water (Drawn and Quarterly, 96 pp.) is pretty much that — a boy wanders across a dreary wasteland with a pack of wild dogs. The dreamlike quality of the work doesn’t necessarily connect, but Nilsen’s sharp line work has a delicateness to it that adds to the eerie story, made even grander through expanses of nothingness.

Québécois artist Pascal Blanchet’s White Rapids (Drawn and Quarterly, 156 pp.) has recently been translated to English, giving readers a chance to check out this gorgeously constructed tale of Rapide Blanc, a town created in northern Quebec in 1928 by the Shawinigan Water and Power Company that housed families who maintained the area’s dam. Blanchet’s Art Deco-inspired work flits between quaint and sinister, and the muted tones and rusted orange colours make it look like a pamphlet you’d find in an old roadside gas station.
 
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt
Pascal Blanchet

           Featured products

Spent
Dogs & Water (hardcover edition)
White Rapids




  EXIT WOUNDS, SPENT and SHORTCOMINGS in the Georgia Straight

Updated October 18, 2007


Georgia Straight
October 11, 2007

Exit Wounds
(By Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp, $21.95)
Koby Franco has a poor relationship with his father, but when his dad's girlfriend shares her fear that he's been blown up in a terrorist explosion outside Tel Aviv, Koby consents to help her solve the mystery: is his father's the one unidentified corpse? (The story comes from Israeli filmmaker David Ofek's 2003 doc No. 17.) Rutu Modan's detailed panels–filled with average people going about their affairs (why are so many comics told as though the protagonist is the only person in the world?) and conveyed in the desaturated hues of despair–speak of a country where death is a constant presence and kindnesses can't be counted on. Bonus: the ending, though not the one you might expect, is a happy one.

Shortcomings
(By Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pp, $22.95)
Adrian Tomine is the reigning king of comic ennui, and with Shortcomings, which collects issues 9 to 11 of his Optic Nerve, he continues his wonderfully misanthropic rule. The story centres on Ben Tanaka, a typically maladjusted Tomine character with poor social skills and corrosive envy. The aimlessness of modern life, a distrust of ambition, and an interest in surveillance are all vintage, but Shortcomings is Tomine's most explicitly racial book yet, using Tanaka's relationship with a fellow Japanese American and his sexual yearnings for white women to explore issues of assimilation and self-hatred. Shortcomings isn't the happiest book you'll ever read, but it's eerily familiar, like something shared in a midnight call to your last friend on Earth. (Tomine makes a rare Vancouver appearance on November 13; for info, contact Sophia Books at 604-684-0484.)

Spent
(By Joe Matt. Drawn & Quarterly, 124 pp, $22.95)
Joe Matt returns with the latest bound collection of his ongoing series, Peepshow. Here, issues 11 to 14 document the cartoon version of Matt compulsively collecting and editing porn footage; we're treated to several pages of his alter ego lining up and dubbing just the right frames. "God help me, I don't wanna end upa sex-crazed old man, living all alone in a basement somewhere," he tells himself, but unless his–only–friends Chester Brown and Seth (real-life cartoonist buddies) can pull him out of himself, it seems he's already holding his hermit-perv destiny in his own oily hands. The clean lines and flat duo tones put Matt squarely in line with powerhouses Seth and Brown.
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Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

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Exit Wounds
Spent
Shortcomings (HC)




JOE MATT interviewed by Dan Stafford

Updated August 29, 2007


ifpthendirt.com
2007
 
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Joe Matt

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Spent




  EXIT WOUNDS, KING-CAT CLASSIX and SPENT reviewed by The Patriot News

Updated August 24, 2007


GRAPHIC LIT
Israeli artist shares her stellar new 'Wounds'
Friday, August 24, 2007
PATRIOT NEWS
Chris Mautner

Young Tel Aviv taxi driver Koby Franco is coasting through his life when a female soldier shows up by his car one day and says "We need to talk."

"Remember that suicide bombing in Hadera three weeks ago," she asks? "Remember that body that was so badly burned it couldn't be identified? Well, she says, I think it was your father."

That's the start to "Exit Wounds," the stellar new graphic novel from Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan.


The story's locale and references to terrorism suggest an overt political tome. Modan, however, wisely keeps such themes in the background, instead creating a wise and warm romantic drama.

You see, Koby has been estranged from his dad for a number of years and would prefer to keep things that way rather than risk any further disappointment. He's not eager to find out if this poor, unclaimed soul is really his father, and he knows his dad well enough to suspect that it's not.

But Numi, the female soldier, had been romantically involved with Koby's dad prior to the bombing and will not be stopped in her quest to uncover the truth.

Thus, she drags the reluctant Koby around the country, talking to eyewitnesses and digging desperately at long-shot clues. Slowly, the father's identity and whereabouts start to take shape, while Numi and Koby begin to forge a relationship of their own.

Never a household name even among the indie crowd, Modan is probably best known as a member of the Actus Tragicus, an Israeli comics collective (she's also illustrated a number of children's books). "Exit Wounds," however, pretty much establishes her as a top-tier artist worthy of notice.

Modan adopts a simple "clear line" art style with little shading or variance in width. Instead she uses flat, warm colors to suggest depth or feeling.

Warm, funny and touching, "Exit Wounds" is specific enough in its look at modern Israeli life to seem unique, but universal enough in its characters and themes to be easily recognizable. It's one of the best books you'll read this year.
Also from Drawn and Quarterly:

"King-Cat Classix" by John Porcellino, 384 pages, $29.95.

Porcellino is one of the stalwarts of the indie-comic scene, having self-published his "King-Cat" comics for almost 20 years now.


"King-Cat Classix" compiles the best of the early years in one handsome hardcover volume. The stories included here suggest a young artist attempting to find his way, trying a variety of different methods and styles before settling down into the contemplative, minimalist style he uses to great effect today.

For fans of his work, "Classix" provides a great look at Porcellino's growth and development. The uninitiated might feel a bit lost here however. For them, I would recommend tracking down "Perfect Example" instead.

"Spent" by Joe Matt, 120 pages, $19.95.

For several years now, and at a glacial pace to boot, Joe Matt has cast a devastating, caustic eye on his own life, such as it is, documenting his failed relationships, nerdy childhood and ugly personality traits in excruciating detail.

"Spent" reaches a new high (or low as the case may be) as it documents his devastating addiction to pornography.

But for a book about such a salacious subject, there's surprisingly no nudity or sex involved; Matt emphasizes dialogue instead, with lots of narrow panels of talking heads, emphasizing the claustrophobic feeling of the book.

It sounds like a depressing and dull topic for a book, but Matt is a gifted storyteller, boasting a likable, thick-lined style, and he knows how to break down a lengthy monologue into readable chunks. "Spent" might be the comic book equivalent of rubbernecking, but all the same you won't be able to tear yourself away from it.
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Featured artists

Joe Matt
John Porcellino
Rutu Modan

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King-Cat Classix
Exit Wounds
Spent




SPENT reviewed by ComicMix

Updated August 23, 2007


GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Spent
Joe Matt reveals more than we want to know about his pathetic life
by Andrew Wheeler
Tue Jul 31, 2007

Joe Matt is a lazy, pornography-obsessed cartoonist whose main (or possibly only) subject is his own miserable life. If you’ve heard of Matt’s work before, you’re probably wondering why I’m restating the obvious. If you’ve never heard of Matt before, you’re probably wondering how much of a career one can get out of that – well, it’s not a deep well, but he’s been at it for nearly twenty years.

Spent collects four issues of Matt’s comic Peepshow; it’s essentially a sequel to his first full-length graphic novel, The Poor Bastard. Poor Bastard was mostly about his rocky relationship with his girlfriend Trish in the early ‘90s, and Spent’s four issues take place in 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2002, respectively. (And the really sad and pathetic thing is that Matt’s depicted life didn’t change in the slightest between ’94 and ’02; these issues read almost as if they're four successive days.) Matt is seen either in company with his two cartoonist friends, Seth and Chester Brown, or (generally alone) in his room, obsessing about himself and talking to the reader.

Now, what I say from here on applies to the “Joe Matt” who is the main character of Spent; it may or may not precisely describe the real-world Joe Matt, though, to all appearances, he does document his life quite honestly. (And a tip of the hat to my fellow comics reviewer Jeff VanderMeer, with whom I spent several enjoyable months last year debating such things as how much of the “Bret Easton Ellis” in Lunar Park can be mapped onto the man of the same name who wrote that novel.)

But back to Joe Matt. He lives in one room in a cheap Toronto boarding house, pees in a jug to avoid possibly meeting his fellow tenants on the way to the bathroom, apparently flees from anything remotely resembling work, and lives as cheaply as possible. His main hobbies – I should say obsessions – are assembling an ever-growing collection of painstakingly-edited video pornography and a similarly growing collection of classic comic strips, also carefully pasted into notebooks. (He also has an associated sideline in extended bouts of masturbation.) I suppose it’s good that Matt is too cheap to have a computer or Internet access; his head would probably explode from all of the free porn.

Matt’s main topic is his own hideousness and “world’s biggest loser” status; no one else can possibly insult Joe Matt, because he has already insulted himself more comprehensively than anyone else could. His comics are intensely verbal, and the person talking most of the time is Matt: about things he hates (other people, the modern world), about his own, self-admittedly pathetic, life, and, less often, about things he likes (old comics, porn). But no matter what the cartoon Matt says, his underlying subject is himself, and the message is “check out what a loser I am.”

Well, Joe Matt does seem to be a loser, and it can be entertaining to watch him be a loser, but, after the short stories of Peepshow, and the watch-me-alienate-my-girlfriend plot of The Poor Bastard, and the check-out-how-bad-I-was-as-a-kid story of Fair Weather, Spent can be a bit much. Spent is the pure, unadulterated Joe Matt in all of his (lack of) glory, so if you want to know what’s the deal with him, this is the book to get. But it's hard to explain why anyone would want or need more than one Joe Matt book.

It's a shame: Matt is a talented cartoonist, who can make panel after panel of the same scene fresh and interesting simply by changing facial expressions. His dialogue is real and well-captured, with the rhythms of actual speech. He understands many of the deep reasons for human behavior, and doesn’t flinch from them. It would be wonderful if he could find a subject outside himself to apply those talents to.

Spent
Joe Matt
Drawn & Quarterly, 2007, $19.95
 
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Joe Matt

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Spent




  SPENT reviewed by The Post Standard/Herald-Journal

Updated August 21, 2007


"Spent," Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95
JEFF KAPALKA
12 August 2007
The Post Standard/Herald-Journal


And then there's Joe Matt's "Spent."

Matt's made a career of detailing his life (or at least, a cartoon approximation of it) in a series of comic book diaries. This time out, he examines the effect of obsession on the creative process. In Matt's case, it's X-rated movies. He rents, borrows and otherwise obtains them, dubbing them onto 6-hour VHS tapes, and editing them down to "the good parts." (None of which are actually shown in the book.)

But he's not happy. His "hobby" erodes his time and energy, and his comics output grinds to a standstill. He eventually comes to the realization that "I might as well be dead. I'm getting the same amount of work done either way. It's pathetic, but true."

"Spent" is a darkly comic look at the creative psyche. It's also a cautionary tale on how pursuits of material things can screw up one's life. And we can take comfort in the fact that, no matter how poorly our personal life is going, we can all say, "At least I'm not like that Joe Matt!"

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Joe Matt

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Spent




SPENT shoot-out on Newsarama

Updated August 15, 2007


SPENT
By Joe Matt
Drawn and Quarterly

Be warned: The book under review is for mature readers. As such, some parts of this review discuss mature subjects. If such things bother you, read no further. SPOILERS are on.

We’re in something of an autobiographical graphic novel—autobiographic novel?—boom at the moment, with new must-reads coming out like clock work. Cartoonists seem to make for great subjects too, because so many of them can be so…well, let’s say idiosyncratic. To choose two favorites for examples, Harvey Pekar has made a long career out of chronicling the life of a cantankerous Cleveland crank, and Jeffrey Brown launched his by detailing his often quite pathetic love life.

Well, if Spent is to be believed, Joe Matt makes the two of them seem among the more well-adjusted people you’ve ever read a comic book about.

He spends the eight years Spent covers living illegally in Toronto, Canada to avoid paying taxes as he strives to save up enough money to live off the interest, which necessarily makes him cheaper than Scrooge McDuck, and a leads him to live what seems like a pretty miserable life.

His “job” seems to be that of a cartoonist, though he does relatively little cartooning.

What does he do? Well, he masturbates. A lot. That’s where the title of the book comes from, in fact. And he meticulously, obsessively, insanely dubs pornography tapes. Borrowing tapes of porn movies from his friend and using two VCRs, he copies them, but only the good parts, carefully editing out all the story or shots of dude’s faces and asses. At the mid-way point of the graphic novel, he’s accrued 184 hours of such self-dubbed, greatest hits porn.

Two of Best Shots’ finest — Michael C. Lorah and J. Caleb Mozzocco — sit down to parse this mature-readers TPB. Welcome to the Shoot Out.

Mike: I wasn’t sure what to expect, as Joe Matt’s reputation is something of a mixed bag. For everybody who likes his work, there’s somebody who calls him the poster child for self-indulgent autobio cartoonists. I’ve only read a few short stories prior to this, and I wasn’t in love with anything I read, but I wasn’t turned off either. I can’t say that anything else he’s done really stuck with me for longer than it took to flip past the last page. That said, although I wasn’t quite in love with Spent, it was certainly very entertaining. Matt’s cartooning is very clear and his characters easy to recognize and “read,” and the dialogue is convincing.

Caleb: It’s certainly a nice-looking book. Like the best graphic novels, it’s a nicelydesigned package, and I like everything about it. The way it looks on a shelf, the way it looks sitting on a coffee table, the cartoon on the back, and, obviously, the interior art.

Mike: Oh yeah, it’s a beautiful book. Matt and Drawn & Quarterly really did a great job assembling it. The appeal of the package is what put me over the top and convinced me to read this – it’s a far cry from the standard-trade-dress, six-issue standard of most book-sized comics. They really put some effort into making an attractive product.

Caleb: If you’ve read a couple of Matt stories, then I guess that puts you a little ahead of me going in. I know the blogsosphere had been buzzing a bit about the book, but honestly I’d never read anything from Joe Matt, so I went in with very low expectations, and I was really caught off guard with just how good it was.

The whole thing was pretty hilarious, and I found it oddly uplifting.

Like, everyone feels like a failure sometimes. I know if I’ve just, um, pleasured myself (Heh; I just realized I have no idea what the guidelines for talking about masturbation on Newsarama are) after an hour of looking at free Internet porn, I’ll have this horrible feeling that I’ve wasted a significant portion of time on something that’s really kinda sad, when I could have been doing something more productive, like drawing my own dusty comics project that spiders are building webs on atop my drawing board, or gone out and tried to meet a girl.

Or, if I’ve done it two or three times in a day, I’ll berate myself with a “Jesus Caleb, you’re 30 and you’re masturbating like a teenager!”

And, hey, who doesn’t look around their one-bedroom apartment full of longboxes and unpaid bills and think, “Is this all I’ve amounted to?”

So reading Joe Matt’s tale made me feel fantastic! Sure, I might jerk off twice daily, but I’ve never done it 20 times in one day, like Matt. I might not own a house or live in a posh pad with a girlfriend, but hey, at least I’m not pissing in a bottle in my closet to avoid running into a housemate I despise, like Matt. So thanks Joe Matt, for reminding me it could be soooo much worse!

The flip side of this, of course, is that as you’re reading about this misanthropic, sad little asshole, you can’t help but see yourself in him here and there, and that can be kinda scary.

Mike: Well, I own a home with my girlfriend and pay all my bills on time, but yeah, I still see plenty of me in Joe Matt. It’s pretty scary that you can feign responsibility and still recognize the obsessive-compulsive, anti-social, excessively judgmental masturbator at the core of your self when confronted with Spent!

What really made the book work for you? My favorite parts were mostly Matt’s conversations with fellow cartoonists Seth and Chester. I thought he did a great job capturing their personalities and interactions. The conversations were breezy and hilarious, particularly the way that they antagonize each other, and you can see why these guys are friends despite their disagreements. It surprised me that, despite Matt being the “loser,” he gets to one-up Seth and Chester as often as they get something over on him. Hell, he gets the last laugh in the diner scene!

Also, the scene of Matt dubbing together porno “best of” tapes had me crying with laughter. The scene is a few pages too long and he kind of kills it, but the initial moment (kind of sickening, kind of “oh, that’s brilliant”) when you realize what he’s doing is among my favorite comic moments.

Caleb: I agree the best part was the long section in the diner with his fellow cartoonists. That scene was 30 pages long, with six panels on every page, and could have gone on forever, and still would have seemed too short, I think.

And yeah, the first time he starts dubbing—pages 47 to 51—I had no idea what was going on, and it was with a kind of creeping horror that it dawned on me exactly what he was doing. It goes on sooo long that I eventually was just skimming the bubbles, but I think that’s what made it so damn hilarious. Just reading a partial reenactment seemed tedious as all hell, my mind boggles at what it would take to actually come up with the amount he had at the end.

Mike: That’s true. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Haha!

Now, I said I wasn’t quite in love with it, so I must admit that I wish Matt indulged in less existential bemoaning of his fate. I guess I see where other readers might find those portions amusing, but I didn’t. Matt’s social interactions kept me turning the pages, but most of his “alone time” slogged the pace of the book down, I felt. I just found the “woe is me, I like porn and can’t get a girl” sequences to be - not awful or impossible to get through, but they’re much less entertaining than Matt’s social interactions. His dialogue and ability to pace the social scenes sell them so convincingly, and illustrate all of his failings so clearly, that to belabor the point by having him stand around, dwelling on such thoughts (in his little thought balloons) just enforces a point that was made much more effectively elsewhere. He’s already made the point in a much more hilarious fashion elsewhere, you know?

Does his artwork remind you of anybody in particular? It’s very open and appealing work, and I really enjoyed the simplicity of the pages. He captures the characters’ annoyance, discomfort, amusement and everything in between with such convincing ease that I was pulled right into every page.

Caleb: Heh, yeah it did.

Okay, I read the first few pages where our hero and his friend are in a used book shop looking for old books of cartoons, and not only does the art look familiar, but the guy he’s hanging out with looks familiar, and his little rant about things having been better in the past than they are now sounded familiar, and I had a weird “Holy crap!” moment when I realized that Joe Matt, or his comics avatar, is hanging out with Seth, or his comics avatar, whom I recognized from It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken.

Later, Chester spends time with them, and that’s the same Chester who was in Seth’s It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Waken>. He’s a cartoonist too. Is that Chester Burns? That’s the only Chet or Chester I see on Drawn and Quarterly’s homepage, but Burns doesn’t look much like the Chester in Spent.

Mike: I believe it’s Chester Brown, author of Louis Riel [Editor: He’s correct. You can also see more of Chester Brown in Yummy Fur].

Caleb: I see. What was weird about it to me was that it somehow made the autobio aspect of this comic more forceful (and, retroactively, that of It’s a Good Life…), because there were now multiple autobio sources reflecting the fact that, you know, Seth really dresses like that, really rants about that stuff, and so forth.

To use a nerdy analogy, reading that first scene was a lot like reading an old Marvel Comic, where the “shared universe” of the MU would be underscored by Spider-Man teaming up with the Fantastic Four or something. I got a sense of a “Drawn and Quarterly Universe” reading some of these scenes.

Mike: I haven’t read It’s A Good Life yet. I’ll have to make it a priority now. That’s very cool.

Caleb: Now if Drawn and Quarterly could just publish a monthly Drawn and Quarterly Team-Up…

Anyway, Matt’s art, yeah, it honestly reminded me of Seth’s quite a bit—which added to that “Holy crap!” moment of déjà vu)—and which is perhaps unavoidable given the coloring, the publisher, and the fact that Seth is standing right there through much of it.

I also though about Joe Sacco a lot, mainly because Matt’s opaque glasses look so much like Sacco’s.

Mike: Sacco’s a good comparison. Sacco with Mike Allred’s thick outlines.

Like I said initially, I didn’t quite love it. At its best, Spent was hilarious. At its worst, it’s a little self-indulgent (for my tastes). Matt tries to deflect that complaint a little bit, by noting right in the book that some people will complain that the book doesn’t have a “big message,” but I’m not asking for a big message. I’m perfectly content to laugh at Joe Matt’s (hopefully) exaggerated social foibles – with fellow cartoonists or with his terrifying landlady! Those scenes make the book sing. In the end, however, I’m glad I read it, so I guess that says a lot. Spent is hilarious, and I do recommend it, but I hope Joe Matt realizes that he made his grand statement without needing to spell it out.

Caleb: It’s definitely a weird book to recommend to people. I think you have to know who you’re recommending it to pretty well before you encourage people to read it.

As for the message, I kind of liked the punchline of the only thing Matt really seems to love—his cat—literally shitting all over him at the end. Things do get kinda meta when we see him drawing scenes we’d already read, and he talks about whether they work or not, but I think the accomplishment is the message itself. As bleak, sad and meaningless as so much of Matt’s life was, in the end he did draw a very nice-looking, very funny cartoon book out of it, and we two—who have never met him—spent some time laughing at it and feeling somewhat superior. So that’s something.
 
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Joe Matt

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Spent




  SPENT reviewed by Pop Matters

Updated August 8, 2007


Spent
Writer: Joe Matt
August 8th, 2007
by Brian Bethel
POP MATTERS


To be honest, it at times seems unfair to me that Joe Matt should be so well-known in the world of comics. He produces work at a sluggish pace, only writes about himself, and verbally begs his readers for pity and endearment. At this point in his career, Matt is more a personality than an author. Most people read his work not for its aesthetic value, but to know what’s going on in Matt’s own life. One might even say his works have garnered so many fans, and notably so many fans similar to Matt himself, because reading about his life assures a certain boost in the reader’s self-confidence about their own. Yet at the same time, reading Matt’s work constantly reduces the reader to Matt’s own level. Matt’s comics problematically document his voyeurism by appealing to our own.

Matt and his fellow Canadian graphic novelists Seth and Chester Brown alternately exemplify the traits and mindset of the obsessed collector: the middle-aged male who combines a love of his own childhood (and the past in general) and a somewhat self-centered sexual obsession with a hatred of the charismatic people of the modern world. While Brown captures the haunting childhood memories in works such as The Playboy and I Never Liked You, and Seth captures the decline of old-timey idealism in Clyde Fans, Matt, though similar to his compatriots in interest and temperament, focuses almost exclusively on the contempt and sexual self-obsession.

Through his ongoing series Peepshow, compiled first in The Poor Bastard and now in Spent, Matt has primarily documented A) his hatred of himself and others, and B) his near-constant masturbation and obsession with porn. While Matt gleefully focuses on his every flaw, he seeks neither personal redemption nor a deep insight into his own character. His work documents his exploits as a total jerk but doesn’t attempt to explain or soften them. At one point in Spent, Matt complains: “If I knew why I was the way I am, wouldn’t I not even be that way?” Matt’s comics lead to the question: why relentlessly portray yourself as a jerk, if you seek neither to improve yourself nor to redeem yourself to a greater public?

Reading Matt’s comics with this in mind leads to questioning the purpose of their very existence. His works straddle tendencies toward sentimentality, self-obsession, bitter sincerity, and regretful longing, but can never swing in one direction long enough to achieve a definite meaning. Spent, though it compiles nearly ten years worth of comics, remains ambiguous in aim. Perhaps Matt wants to justify his loneliness—to give himself an audience that will help to balance out his own sense of voyeurism. And yet his work remains eerily tied to events within his own life, enough to demolish any definite sense of insightful removal. When Matt laments the loss of his ex-girlfriend, is it with the hope that she might read the strip and take him back? When he longs for a new one, is he thinking that one might phone him up after reading his work? Matt’s comics seem to promise a detached judgment of himself but end up blending uncomfortably with actual events, at times feeling like some sort of public diary.

So how has Matt managed to keep making comics for the past 15 years that focus exclusively on himself and his endless disappointments? Doesn’t art involve some sort of risk, some sort of extension of oneself beyond one’s own life? At one point in Spent, Matt disparages his own body of work to such an extent that he nearly persuades his readers of the lack of its worth, complaining: “At some point, the reader’s going to realize that it’s going nowhere . . . that there’ll be no payoff . . . no epiphany . . . no nothing. And then what?” Spent in many ways seems to be the climax of this line of thinking. But the answer seems to be a positive one.

Over the past 15 years, Matt has somehow managed to make a series entirely out of his flaws and failures, and to make it interesting and engaging enough to earn a devoted readership. Despite the fact that the art, language, and technique aren’t particularly original or inventive, his readers keep reading, and likely will continue reading for some time. Matt, through his documentation of his life as a loser and a voyeur, ultimately exposes his readers as voyeurs themselves, unable to put down his work be it because they want to ensure themselves of their own self-worth, or because they pity Matt in all his failures.

The trick that Joe Matt plays on us all is that, even though in one scene he devotes four pages to his taping and editing of a porn video entitled Anal Clinic, he is still less voyeuristic than the reader, who actually reads those four pages and continues onward. Matt, as a self-designed loser, has actually garnered himself an audience, which in fact shows that no matter how lonely his stories may be they have enough merit to attract a large fan base. In reading his works, we are always more voyeuristic than Matt himself. While Joe Matt continues to withhold meaningful insight into his own ample flaws, his work at best reveals that we are not as above him as we might think.
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Joe Matt

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Spent




JOE MATT in conversation with MungBeing

Updated August 7, 2007


Joe Matt
by jody franklin
08/07/07
MUNGBEING.COM

Joe Matt has been exploiting himself in comic strips and books for nearly two decades. Working strictly in the autobiographical form, Joe has exposed some of the most intimate details of his life in his stories. His first book Peepshow (Kitchen Sink, 1992) collected his content-rich one-page strips that appeared in various anthology comics in the late 80s and early 90s. Most of these strips documented the topsy-turvy relationship he had with Trish, his first long-term, serious girlfriend, and how his addiction to pornography caused them strife. Drawn & Quarterly began publishing his comic book series Peepshow in 1992, the stories from which have been collected in three volumes. The first volume, The Poor Bastard (Peepshow 1-6), spun out the tale of Joe's unrequited crush on Trish's friend, and the subsequent dissolution of their relationship. Fair Weather (Peepshow 7-10) gives us a glimpse of Joe as an uptight, adolescent Catholic in the throes of discovering girls one summer in the suburbs. In his latest collection Spent (Peepshow 11-14), Joe portrays himself as a self-reflective recluse who shuns the outside world in order to spend most of his time masturbating to porn tapes he obsessively collects and compulsively edits to suit his tastes.

While Joe always gave me the impression he was something of a Luddite, I was surprised that he agreed to answer my questions via email.

jody: Why do you do autobiography?

Joe: I do autobiographical comics because I'm a voyeur at heart and I'm attempting to produce the kind of comics that I'd most enjoy reading.

jody: Your comics drip with self-consciousness and insecurity, yet you don't seem to portray yourself as vulnerable. Do you feel you ever come across as narcissistic?

Joe: Narcissistic? In love with myself? I don't think I come across like that at all in my comics. To quote Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day -- "I don't even LIKE myself!"


jody: You started doing your autobiographical strips around the same time you started seeing your girlfriend Trish, who was featured heavily in your comics for years. In an early strip, it is revealed that she is also an artist, and the two of you draw an entire strip together. Did you ever hope to develop something along the lines of what Robert and Aline Crumb were doing with their Dirty Laundry comics? Did you hope Trish would ever reach that level of acceptance or participation?

Joe: Truth be told, my view and judgment of cartoonists in general is very harsh... female cartoonists in particular. So, no I've never had realistic hopes that I'd find an "Aline," or, more accurately, a "Yoko." And even if I did, I'd want someone FAR better than me, as a cartoonist. I mean, that's the real fantasy, isn't it? To be accepted by someone better than oneself?

jody: In The Poor Bastard, you show the development of your relationships with "Andy" and "Kim," who seem to play very important roles in your life as close friends. When they discover your comic and how you depict them, they are livid, and you imply that this discovery led immediately to the downfall of your friendships with both of them. Were the relationships damaged for good, and how did you feel about that?

Joe: I tend to view my closest friends as very far and few; hence, I tend to view almost all others as expendable to some degree. And so it was with "Andy and Kim." And while I didn't go out of my way to be hurtful or exploitive to them in my comics, I also didn't care what their response or reaction would be either. I know... that sounds rather cold, but I can't go second-guessing reactions that I can't control anyway. It's counter-productive.

jody: Did you read the interview that Rick Trembles did with Dani, the woman who inspired the Frankie character in The Poor Bastard? She says she discovered the comic after somebody recognized her as being one of your characters. She was quite shocked and angry, and seems to have a low opinion of you. She feels that you unfairly portrayed her boyfriend as a dumb gorilla, and that your infatuation with her may have sabotaged her own friendship with Trish.

Joe: Yes, I did read that interview and thought it was ridiculous when she (Dani) expressed indignation not only over my portrayal of her, but also over the fact that she felt like I owed her royalties and financial compensation for "using" her as I did. As for my portraying her boyfriend as a "gorilla," that was my emotional reaction when I saw him. My visual memory is non-existent, but my writing is guided by emotional memory, not visual. Hence, it was accurate for me. Also, I did change her name, so the hell with her. And as for my infatuation with her sabotaging her relationship with Trish - who knows? It may have, or it may not have. That's life, regardless of having it portrayed in comic form or not.

jody: I was really shocked when you admitted in Peepshow 14 that the threesome in which you participated in The Poor Bastard was pure fantasy. I mean, since the day I bought the original comic some 13 years ago, I believed this was the way the events transpired in your life. As a fan, I suppose I feel a little betrayed by the "lie." Why did you do it? What led to this? Did you even hook up with your ex-girlfriend Laura at all at that time, or was this all a dramatic embellishment?

Joe: I did "hook up" with Laura, as portrayed in my comic, but there was no third person in bed with us. I invented that threesome, partly because I could, and partly because I was influenced by Seth's playing with the facts in his book, It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken. In that book, Seth invents a fictional New Yorker cartoonist whom he becomes obsessed with. I also included that threesome to highlight my own patheticness, regarding my impotence in that scene. (In reality, impotence wasn't a problem, ejaculation was. I didn't want the sex to end. ) Also, I wanted the threesome to "bookend" the fantasy-threesome that opens The Poor Bastard on page one, simply to show the incongruity between fantasy and reality. In the end, though, I hate lying and thus had to confess to this playing with the facts in my subsequent book, Spent.

jody: Spent (Peepshow 11-14) explores your porn addiction in depth. Much of the series is done in monologue, shown as you talking to yourself. Compared to all of your previous work, you show far less human interaction, we get this real sense that you're isolated from the world, reclusive, completely lost in this world of pornography. Autobiographical storytellers are selective, as they choose which aspects of their life to share with people. But is the overall impression the reader gets from this series accurate? Did you isolate yourself to indulge in porn? During this period of your life, were you far less socialized than during other periods?

Joe: Yes, totally. And it's on-going. Even today, I masturbated five or six times before leaving the house to come to this library and answer these questions via email. And when I leave this library, I'm going straight to a video store to rent more porn on DVD for dubbing purposes, which I'll be doing later tonight. See? I've got a full day ahead of me!! And zero human interaction!!



jody: After reading your comics for almost two decades, I was surprised to find you on MySpace; I never figured you for an internet guy. Are you fully wired in your home now? How has this affected your relationship to porn? Has the internet made it easier for you to meet women?

Joe: I've never owned a computer and probably never will. Even now, I'm in a public library typing this, with two minutes left before it kicks me off. And so I must say goodbye!! Seriously!! Adios!! And thank you!!

Yours,

~ Joe Matt

"But, Joe! You ignored some of my questions!And what about the follow-up questions I have? The library? You answered these questions at the library? No wonder I sweated and paced for several days as I waited for your answers to arrive!" Sure, the way the email interview ended was cute, and I would've been happy with that, but Joe sent me another email a couple of hours later saying I could phone him. And I did, the very next day. Of course I wondered if I'd be interrupting a heavy masturbation session. He answered the phone immediately, and I never bothered asking if I "caught him in the middle" of "something". I don't think I wanted to know.

We chatted informally about autobiographical filmmaker Caveh Zahedi, who bared for the world to see his addiction to prostitutes in his recent film I Am A Sex Addict. Joe once met Caveh (which is referenced in my interview with Mr. Zahedi, "I Am A Caveh Addict," in MungBeing 7: Fanaticism ), as the two men share a propensity for both raw honesty in art and compulsive sexual behaviors. While Caveh became a successful twelve-stepper who cured his addiction, Joe... well, Joe took a different path.

Joe: I'm always dubious of these "cures". Whatever the addiction is, I feel the rate of people sliding back is always really high.

jody: In a strip dated October 25th, 1989, you wrote, "One thing's for sure, I'm finally through with pornography... I was just trying to have my cake + eat it too... Now it's over." Eighteen years later...

Joe: Eighteen years later, I'm still loving it. I never thought DVD technology was coming down the road. Even at that point, I hadn't dubbed anything, or started making a collection of edited porn tapes. Back then, I was living with Trish, 89 would be the in first year of that relationship... a crucial crossroads of my life about whether I'd be capable of a "normal relationship," or want to indulge this habit to the maximum like I have and did and continue to do. She went on, got married, had children, had a pretty conventional, normal life. I saw her sister last week at Comic-Con and she said Trish doesn't read or look at comics at all anymore, let alone mine in particular. This seems odd, because at the time she liked comics, she was reading everything I was reading. That whole interest might have been completely tied up with me.

jody: In your strips and stories, you often depicted the conflicts between yourself and Trish that arose as a direct result of you exposing intimate details of your lives, and in particular hers, in your comics.

Joe: It was a strip about somebody in their early twenties. People are still trying to find themselves at that age. It's a pretty good way for relationships to either congeal or work out. I don't have any regrets. It wasn't the relationship for me; it was at the time, but ultimately not beyond that.

jody: In a way, you were authoring your life at the same time as you authored your comics, and it seems the line between art and reality often got blurred.

Joe: Back then, it was very immediate, I'd be doing a strip about something that happened a week prior. When I started doing the Peepshow comic it was about stuff that happened two or three months prior. The slower I got, the less productive I got, the more things fell way back into the past, and a backlog began piling up, which I'll be confronting in my next book in a very wordy manner. It can't really be depicted in comic form, but I can gloss over what I think are the key points from the last decade of relationships. I've had four major relationships in the last ten years.

jody: And you've kept those relationships out of your comics. Have you run into trouble with your other girlfriends over your porn indulgence?

Joe: In my last relationship, which lasted two years, pornography was about as much an issue as eating chocolate. It was inconsequential, it did not matter at all to this last girlfriend. I don't see why looking at pornography has to be such a huge deal that it needs to be such an extravagant issue of debate in a relationship like it was with Trish and I. Everything seems to be more openly discussed these days. Pornography, masturbation, all that, it doesn't seem to be the big thing, the big secret it was back then in the late 80s. Part of that is the changing world, the internet, maybe... It just seemed like a bigger deal back then. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing. I really had a problem coming to terms with, "am I really objectifying women? Am I really doing something wrong by contributing to some evil industry? When my girlfriend thinks I'm cheating on her, are her remarks valid? " That's all something I had to come to grips with, and it took time.

jody: And you're okay with it all now?

Joe: Yeah. I don't want to give it up, I don't have proper motivation to give it up, it's a great thing, and it's in my life for a reason. Even to have to defend it is absurd. I tried to say all I could on the subject in Spent. I focused on it in that book so I don't have to repeatedly talk about it, or feel like I have nothing else to talk about in my comics.

jody: Do we see the authentic Joe Matt in your comics?

Joe: You see an exaggerated side of me. Certain things I feel just don't work in comics, there are certain aspects of myself I'm completely not interested in showing. I place a high priority on humor. Ultimately, trying to get some laughs is the whole reason I do the work.

While I was primarily interested in examining the problems associated with the authentic portrayal of self within the autobiographical comic medium, our conversations frequently veered off into Joe's love affair with pornography. And, try as I might, I could not help but get sidetracked, as, in my mind, there is absolutely no way I can divorce the comic book from the man: they are one and the same. Even to hear him speak on the phone, to know there's a flesh and blood human on the other end of the line, does not allow me to detach him from his art. Inky blood: he is a living comic book character. This is the very thing that gives the artists who are raw and honest their power to connect with people on a deep level: they live their art.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The Vancouver Courier

Updated August 2, 2007


Readable Wounds details life in Tel Aviv; Graphic novel shows what's possible with comics
Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Shawn Conner


EXIT WOUNDS

By Rutu Modan

Drawn & Quarterly

Like Guy Delisle's Pyongyang, Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds is one of those graphic novels defenders of the form will immediately press upon friends, as if to say, "Look at what's possible in comics!"

In modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man named Koby Franco receives an urgent call from a female soldier named Numi. Learning his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins Numi in searching for clues. Their twisty, unpredictable quest reveals as much about the two of them, and life in modern-day Israel, as it does about the missing dad.

Drawn in a clean-line, Tintin-type of style, Exit Wounds is the second graphic novel by Tel Aviv illustrator Modan, who has worked as a co-editor
of the Israeli version (who knew?) of Mad magazine. It's immensely readable, beautifully coloured, and richly detailed, but Modan's real triumph is her treatment of the characters. Complicated and moody, Numi and Koby are complete human beings, and Modan never loses sight of their likability, even when they're being complete jerks to each other.

--Shawn Conner

SPENT

By Joe Matt

Drawn & Quarterly

The back cover cartoon says it all. In a store, two fashionable young women spy a table full of hardbacks. Seeing the title Spent one of them says, "it's probably about a shopaholic who can't stop spending every last dime on clothes!" They begin flipping through a copy--only to discover it's actually a graphic novel illustrating the non-adventures of a chronic masturbator addicted to porn. "Eww! Gross!" says the brunette. "Joe Matt, wherever you are--you're the world's biggest, ugliest loser."
"Haha!" says her friend, a feathered blonde. "Let's go look at shoes!" Cut to a lonely, tearful Matt, sitting nearby, alone at his "meet the author" table.

Matt has made a name for himself in the alternative comic universe for his unflinchingly autobiographical title Peepshow, four issues of which are collected here. How much of the story is true and how much exaggerated for effect is difficult to tell, but the American expat (originally from Illinois, now in L.A., Matt was living in Toronto when the action in Peepshow/Spent takes place) sure likes to wallow in unsavory details.

He shares his pathological cheapness (he saves money on rent by living in a house with a shared bathroom), his questionable habits (he urinates in a jar to avoid said bathroom), and his hobbies (dubbing favourite scenes from porn tapes to make his own)--then whines about not having a girlfriend.

In the dedication, Matt acknowledges his debt to Robert Crumb, the original warts 'n' all comics memoirist, and Spent is certainly in the Crumb tradition of letting all psychic ills hang out. It's also vastly entertaining, beautifully rendered (Matt has a fluid, pleasing style), and is in its own way reassuring. If you think you have problems, just read Spent.

--SC

Featured artists

Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent




SPENT in The Edmonton Journal

Updated July 31, 2007


Joe Matt's Spent (Drawn and Quarterly, 124 pages, $22.95, hardcover).
Gilbert Bourchard
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL

A master of the craft of drawing, and boasting a style as forceful as it is spare, Matt is one of the pioneers of autobiographical and unvarnished comic book writing.
How "unvarnished"? Well, as you can guess from the book's title, the author's obsession with masturbation and porn is an overarching theme. If you can handle that, this is the wildly funny, albeit dark, tome for you.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  Curledup.com on SPENT

Updated July 31, 2007


Spent will leave readers either greatly amused or quite leery of comic book artists who decide to air their personal lives in the sequential art medium. Those with a good sense of reality and a great taste for humor should fall into the former category.

Joe is not by any means a successful artist. He has done some work but certainly has not made a name for himself. His other comic friends also struggle to eke out a living. But Joe has a dream of financial freedom someday: his determination to invest every penny he can make until he can simply live off the interest is balanced by a mundane, rather pathetic life in which he constantly bemoans the loss of past loves, wishes his roommates dead, and engages in pedantic discussions among his friends. The only other habit that he is truly passionate about also remains a matter of contention and scorn among his friends. Joe has a particular fondness for pornography, a fondness that goes all the way back to his adolescent days trying to catch scantily clad women on late-night television. But his obsession is growing rather extreme.

Spent invokes the legacy of Seinfeld in that, for the most part, it is a book about nothing in particular—that is, there isn’t some great revelation or pinnacle event. Instead, it links together conversations and flashbacks to give an insight into Joe’s life. The humor ranges from slapstick to referential to ironic. Readers cannot help to be amused by the unexciting—even trivial—events in Joe’s life that connect together for this graphic novel.

Joe’s art, like his narrative, balances the mundane and the unique. Interestingly, Joe uses a green, black, and white color scheme for this body of work. The green, of course, could speak to a number of symbols having to do with Joe’s equally unbalanced desires to spend sperm but not money. The layout remains the same through the entire book, an unusual act for most comic artists. Every page contains the same four rows and two columns as the previous one. Though it could be monotonous, that also parallels Joe’s life from year to year as an uninterrupted cycle. His characters are more iconic than realistic, resembling in many ways Scott McCloud more than Robert Crumb, to whom he dedicates the book. It is blatantly obvious that Crumb has influenced Joe when it comes to plot and dialogue.

Joe’s work is as impressive as it may be offensive to the wrong crowds. His easy disposition toward masturbation and the nonchalant manner in which he works it into his graphic novel is rather refreshing. Drawn and Quarterly is known for publishing superior works, and it is understandable why they chose to publish this. Hopefully many others will appreciate the humor and straightforwardness of Joe’s work.
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




Sequart.com on SPENT

Updated July 31, 2007


Slap-Shtick or Stroke of Genius? Joe Matt's Spent

High-Low #74 by Rob Clough 23 July 2007 at 9:45 EST

For those who are turned off by autobiographical comics, Joe Matt is often regarded as public enemy #1. His comics are literally about his masturbation habits, his antisocial behavior and hermitlike existence. As a result, they're easy to target as the sort of stereotypical narcissistic navel-gazing with which critics dismiss the entire genre. I think to a degree this charge has some merit with Matt's earlier work, as he was still working through his R.Crumb influence. However, Matt didn't have Crumb's refined drawing chops, intelligence or relentlessness in getting to the roots of his neuroses. After reading his first collection of strips, PEEPSHOW, I lost interest in the numbing sameness of Matt's work. The "revelations" he was disclosing just weren't all that compelling, and he was nowhere near Crumb's class as a humorist.
Imagine my surprise when I read SPENT and found it hilarious. Matt has simplified and refined his line over the years, and used a basic 8-panel grid on every page. With a soft blue tint on every page, the reader's eye is drawn in to every page despite the static nature of most of the stories. Matt's clean look is ideal in setting up the real goal of this book: taking his own self-caricature to its logical extreme and expertly milking each of his most loathesome qualities for every last laugh.

What becomes obvious is that Matt long ago decided to focus on his famously eccentric, misanthropic tendencies and exaggerate them for comic effect. Even the press materials play up Matt's miserly ways, obsession with porn, his urinating in jars and keeping them in his room and his willingness to humiliate himself. What what finds in these pages isn't self-reflection--it's shtick. Embarrassing, outrageous and slightly disgusting, certainly--but shtick nonetheless.

The good news for the reader is that it's good shtick. Matt's sense of comic timing has become as finely honed as his line. Each of the four chapters has a different comedic focus. The first chapter introduces Matt's primary comic foil, the cartoonist Seth. "Seth" is everything "Joe Matt" is not--refined, fussy, social, hard=working, responsible. He also relentlessly nags Matt about his lazy, apathetic, misanthropic ways, and chides him for his "witholding" ways--deliberately witholding his company from others in order to hold power over them. What makes Seth such a great character and foil for Matt is that Matt cares so little about his faults that he can blithely take Seth's abuse and then turn around and aggravate him even more.

That segues into Matt meeting up with a sleazy porn enthusiast who lets Matt borrow videotapes for a fee. The next chapter is all about Matt's ridiculous hobby of taking videotapes, copying them, and editing them down to a few precious scenes that he wanted to watch again and again. Along the way, we get flashbacks to Matt's childhood, a sort of survey of his history of masturbation and sexual humiliations. The payoff came when young Matt stole a few frames of film stolen from a friend's full-length movie and realized that they were all shots of a man's ass--it's a delicious payoff as Matt simultaneously documents his humiliation and invites the reader to laugh at him.

The third chapter is the book's best. It's a scene in a restaurant with Matt, Seth and fellow cartoonist Chester Brown. The comic timing is not unlike the Marx Brothers, centering around Matt's cheapness. The page where Matt tries to beg bread off Seth but refuses the slice that's offered to him because Seth touched it is topped off when Seth decides to lick the entire loaf in order to piss off Matt is one of the funniest in the book. Later, when discussing comics awards, Brown & Seth mocked Matt's vanity in nominating himself combined with his extreme laziness in actually producing any work. They suggested that he should nominate himself "best editor" for his porn editing "work". The chapter picks up on an earlier plot point (Seth's obsession with an old Canadian comic strip), piles on conflict between Seth & Matt, and then concludes with Matt talking Seth into paying out for a bunch of old strips--and then finally deciding to order dinner with his new windfall. It's a great punchline, because it builds on Matt's established flaws while using them expertly to set up conflicts with his foils. For all of Matt's self-abasement, it's telling that he "allows" himself to get the upper hand in this situation.

That doesn't last long, however. The final chapter sees Matt subjected to a whole series of humiliations, culminating in his disgusting landlady lecturing him about urinating in the sink and then having a cat shit on him. It's instructive to compare Matt's autobiographical stories to Ivan Brunetti's. Both are misanthropic, neurotic and filled with self-loathing. However, Brunetti's autobiographical comics (while often funny) are an existential howl, an attempt by the artist to get at something fundamental. Matt, on the other hand, just wants us to laugh at him. His self-caricature is ridiculously over-the-top, revealing that while the events in the book may be factually true, even Matt admits to making up facts that make him look worse to the reader. When he notes that there's "no payoff, no epiphany, no nothing", he's worried that the readers will be out for blood.

He's right that there's not even a story, per se. What he does have is a lot of jokes, and they're not only good ones, they're punchlines that only Joe Matt could make. He's honed his shtick to a fine point and made an art of being Joe Matt and making Joe Matt jokes. There's nothing more to his work at this point than this deft arrangement of humiliating personal anecdotes and tics, but no one else mines this lode of humor quite like him. Ultimately, his autobiography becomes both self-parody and a parody of the genre in general.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SPENT in LA Times

Updated July 31, 2007


'Spent' by Joe Matt and 'Postcards,' edited by Jason Rodriguez
Blurring the line between reality and illusion
By David L. Ulin, Times Staff Writer
July 24, 2007

Comics have a curious relationship to truth. Although the genre has its roots in fantasy, it's a vivid, autobiographical medium, in which the combination of words and pictures draws us in. Will Eisner, Harvey Pekar and Art Spiegelman all told stories about their lives years before the current vogue for graphic self-expression; now, younger artists such as Alison Bechdel and Adrian Tomine explore fundamental questions of identity and self.

Still, for all their immediacy, comics raise issues of authenticity, of the relationship of the page to the world. Even the most minutely rendered panel is an extrapolation, an impression — a visual metaphor. That was the idea behind Spiegelman's decision to frame Jews as mice and Nazis as cats in his Holocaust memoir-in-comics "Maus." If other artists aren't necessarily that explicit, their intent is similar in the end.

This, of course, is true of virtually all narrative nonfiction, but with comics, the tension is heightened by the inherent artifice of the form. It's tricky to write about your experience in a medium driven almost entirely by little drawings, in which you represent yourself in caricature. What's real? What's illusion? The beauty is you can't quite tell.

Joe Matt's "Spent" is a perfect example of this dynamic, a self-portrait that exposes its author's secrets even as it heightens them for dramatic effect. This has been Matt's stock-in-trade since his first book, "Peep Show," came out in 1991; influenced by Chester Brown and R. Crumb ("Spent" is dedicated to Crumb, "for showing me the way"), he portrays himself as a kind of everyman loser — neurotic, porn-addicted and utterly unwilling to grow up.

It's a solipsistic universe, one in which Matt (or his comic book alter ego) exists in a never-ending state of childhood. "I've barely changed," he notes in "Spent." "Even this room looks pretty much the same as my childhood one — full of toys and comic books. Somehow I've managed to avoid almost all of the trappings of adulthood — a regular job … wife and kids … a house … a car…. "

For Matt the character, this is something of a victory statement, a celebration of integrity. For his creator, it's a bit more fraught, because "Spent" is almost devoid of meaningful relationships. The self Matt presents in these pages is isolated, unable to break free of his bad habits and make contact with the world. "It's lonely in here," he admits at one point, in his boardinghouse room. "I feel like a prisoner in solitary confinement … just rotting away."

That's an exaggeration, like the character Charlie Kaufman in the movie "Adaptation"; were Matt this dysfunctional, he never could have produced this book, and yet, as in a work like "Adaptation," that's part of the purpose, to illuminate by embellishment, to reveal the truth by taking it to extremes.

"I was purposely showing my own shallowness!" Matt tells a friend who calls him on the casual cruelty of an earlier comic, in which he described betraying his (now ex-) girlfriend of many years. "Plus I exaggerated everything for the sake of the comic!" It's a telling statement — perhaps the most telling one in the book — with its implication that a related process is at work here.

Unfortunately, no matter how acutely rendered, a solipsistic universe is a solipsistic universe, as airtight as Matt's room. And as "Spent" progresses, it starts to feel claustrophobic, less a memoir than a particularly fixated bit of diary-keeping, with every indiscretion cataloged.

It's not the material that is the issue; literature has long been informed by obsession, self-indulgence, going back to Thomas de Quincey and Laurence Sterne. But unlike those writers, or even the so-called transgressive novelists (William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Alexander Trocchi), Matt ultimately has no focus larger than himself.

To be truly transgressive, an artist needs to find the commonality that makes antisocial or even dangerous behavior universal, that allows us to enter his or her world.

Clearly, this is Matt's intention; at the end of "Spent," he declares, "I need something to give meaning to this stupid life of mine … otherwise what the hell is it all for?" It's a valid question, but coming so late, it feels less like a revelation than a dodge. "At some point," he writes, describing a project that, one must assume, is this very volume, "the reader's going to realize that it's going nowhere … that there'll be no payoff … no epiphany … no nothing. And then what?" [article continues]
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




D+Q at San Diego Comicon

Updated July 20, 2007


D+Q @ San Diego Comic-Con

Miriam Katin, Joe Matt, Guy Delisle (making his first U.S. appearance!), and James Sturm are D+Q's guest artists at San Diego this year. They'll be on various panels and signing at our booth #1529. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, July 26

1:00 - 3:00 Miriam Katin signing

3:00 - 5:00 Joe Matt signing

4:00 - 5:00 Room 3 "Spotlight on Guy Delisle." Moderated by Tom Spurgeon.

5:15 - 7:00 Guy Delisle signing

Friday, July 27

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Joe Matt"

12:45 - 2:45 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Miriam Katin" Slide Show and moderated by Shaenon Garrity.

2:45 - 4:00 Miriam Katin signing

4:00 - 5:45 Guy Delisle signing

4:30 - 5:30 Room 4 "New Voices in Graphic Novels"
with Miriam Katin, Christian Slade, David Peterson, George O'Connor, Jamie Tanner, and Leland Myrick.

4:30 - 5:30 Room 24A "Center for Cartoon Studies"
with James Sturm and Tom Devlin

5:45 - 7:00 James Sturm signing

Saturday, July 28

11:00 - 1:00 James Sturm signing

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Reality-Based Graphic Novels"
with Joe Matt, Guy Delisle, Miriam Katin, Rick Geary and Alison Bechdel.

1:00 - 3:00 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 4 "Great American Comic Strips"
with Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, IDW, and Classic Comics Press

3:00 - 5:00 Guy Delisle signing

5:00 - 7:00 Miriam Katin signing

Sunday, July 29

10:00 - 12:00 Miriam Katin signing

12:00 - 2:00 Joe Matt signing

2:00 - 4:00 Guy Delisle signing

PLUS, the D+Q booth will have a ton of great convention deals as usual, and every purchase gets a FREE Shortcomings poster, in anticipation of Adrian Tomine's long-awaited graphic novel, coming in October. We'll have lots of postcards & Lynda Barry's Free Comic Book Day Activity Book as well, so come say hello to friendly D+Q-ers Jessica, Rebecca and Tom, and check out our new stuff, and the classics too.

DEBUT titles will include Berlin #13 by Jason Lutes, and James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems.

 

Featured artists

James Sturm
Joe Matt
Guy Delisle

          



  D+Q at San Diego Comic-Con

Updated July 20, 2007


Miriam Katin, Joe Matt, Guy Delisle (making his first U.S. appearance!), and James Sturm are D+Q's guest artists at San Diego this year. They'll be on various panels and signing at our booth #1529. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, July 26

1:00 - 3:00 Miriam Katin signing

3:00 - 5:00 Joe Matt signing

4:00 - 5:00 Room 3 "Spotlight on Guy Delisle." Moderated by Tom Spurgeon.

5:15 - 7:00 Guy Delisle signing

Friday, July 27

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Joe Matt"

12:45 - 2:45 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Miriam Katin" Slide Show and moderated by Shaenon Garrity.

2:45 - 4:00 Miriam Katin signing

4:00 - 5:45 Guy Delisle signing

4:30 - 5:30 Room 4 "New Voices in Graphic Novels"
with Miriam Katin, Christian Slade, David Peterson, George O'Connor, Jamie Tanner, and Leland Myrick.

4:30 - 5:30 Room 24A "Center for Cartoon Studies"
with James Sturm and Tom Devlin

5:45 - 7:00 James Sturm signing

Saturday, July 28

11:00 - 1:00 James Sturm signing

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Reality-Based Graphic Novels"
with Joe Matt, Guy Delisle, Miriam Katin, Rick Geary and Alison Bechdel.

1:00 - 3:00 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 4 "Great American Comic Strips"
with Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, IDW, and Classic Comics Press

3:00 - 5:00 Guy Delisle signing

5:00 - 7:00 Miriam Katin signing

Sunday, July 29

10:00 - 12:00 Miriam Katin signing

12:00 - 2:00 Joe Matt signing

2:00 - 4:00 Guy Delisle signing

PLUS, the D+Q booth will have a ton of great convention deals as usual, and every purchase gets a FREE Shortcomings poster, in anticipation of Adrian Tomine's long-awaited graphic novel, coming in October. We'll have lots of postcards & Lynda Barry's Free Comic Book Day Activity Book as well, so come say hello to friendly D+Q-ers Jessica, Rebecca and Tom, and check out our new stuff, and the classics too.

DEBUT titles will include Berlin #13 by Jason Lutes, and James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems.

I'd post the address of the convention center, but just go to San Diego and follow the stormtroopers and men in tights, you can't miss it...Special thanks to Jackie Estrada, Sue Lord and Gary Sassaman for always being extremely helpful, supportive and professional to D+Q and our cartoonists.

Featured artists

Joe Matt
Guy Delisle
Miriam Katin

           Featured products

James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems
Berlin #13




SPENT in Penthouse

Updated July 17, 2007



 
click here to download the PDF (1.82 MB)


Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Spent




  SPENT in The Hartford Advocate

Updated July 17, 2007


Saturday, July 14, 2007
A Life Unwell Spent
Alan Bisbort
THE HARTFORD ADVOCATE

I once had a friend like Joe Matt, whose self- ppraisals could shock you with their honesty. All the while he pursued pleasure like a hamster in a cage, my friend Billy confessed to harboring fantasies of serial acts of sabotage. Billy once, for example, brought a party to a screeching halt by going outside, locating the host’s lawn mower, then rolling it onto the middle of the dance floor and cranking it up. When Billy began to “mow” the hallway, the host—and several of his large friends—ejected him from the premises.

Like Billy and I, cartoon artists Joe Matt and Seth are a mismatched pair of friends. Joe Matt is a porn- ddicted American who lives entirely in the moment, inhabits cheap, squalid digs in a grubby rooming house, sports ratty T-shirts and jeans, and carries his stuff around in a backpack. He’s not just a porn addict, he’s a porn connoisseur (e.g., “I liked her better before the implants.”). Seth is an effete Canadian aesthete who lives in the distant past, sports a necktie, button-down shirts, wire rim glasses and a fedora and smokes cigarettes in a way that recalls Humphrey Bogart or Jean-Paul Belmondo (his desired effect, no doubt). The two of them argue like Tony Randall and Jack Klugman in The Odd Couple or, more aptly, Andre and Wally in My Dinner with Andre. Each has a valid worldview— ather, makes a convincing case for why they think and act the way they do—but it is one that the other finds unappealing if not repulsive.

Does 120 pages of such parrying and thrusting between alleged friends—all of it depicted in meticulously rendered panels like a Peanuts comic strip—sound like it would be a bore?

On the contrary, it’s painfully funny and engaging enough to be read in one sitting, which puts you in danger of missing just how well done, artistically, it all is. Indeed, Matt’s Spent is both a cautionary tale (surely Matt isn’t this perverse…is he?) and a standup routine, a kind of comic book version of an Eric Bogosian character (if that’s not a redundancy). A reader can connect with his memoir, Spent, because they know Joe Matt and Seth. Joe and Seth are our friends, the ones we try to keep separate from one another. They are also the two sides of our own personality, the blissful pleasure seeker and the morbid philosopher, never satisfied with the things as they are and constantly bemoaning the dumbing down of everything.

Even as Joe Matt gets existential in his apologia for porn, his fixation reveals a truth that may be part of every addict’s psychological makeup: He’s terrified of women. As such, he is virtually unchanged since high school, when he shrunk from the agony of connecting with girls. Twenty years later, he still drifts from one girlfriend to another, in between months of solitary porn viewing. His philosophy, such as it is, is contained in this snippet of monologue: “Somehow I’ve managed to avoid almost all of the trappings of adulthood…A regular job…wife and kids…a house…a car.”

Alas, in Spent, Matt tells on himself. He really is as much of a romantic as his foil, Seth, who is just as frozen in time as Matt is, though he is pining for some distant past. This comes through in all of Seth’s exceptionally fine comic art as well, the best examples of which are It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken and Clyde Fans, both of which are also published by Drawn & Quarterly.

In fact, just go the Drawn & Quarterly’s Web site http://www.drawnandquarterly.com, order something (anything!) that piques your curiosity. It’s all good! Read it, then order something else. Support the supporters of Joe Matt. The life you save may be your own.
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Spent




SPENT in Las Vegas Weekly

Updated July 17, 2007


Tales from a chronic masturbator
July 12, 2007
by J. Caleb Mozzocco
LAS VEGAS WEEKLY

Two-first-named cartoonist Joe Matt creates comics about his own life starring himself, and he makes cantankerous crank Harvey Pekar and pathetic, laughably lovelorn Jeffrey Brown seem like two of the most well-adjusted individuals you’ve ever read about.

Matt is a chronic masturbator addicted to porn. How chronic, you ask, and how addicted? Well, he pleasures himself at least 10 times a day, and even hits a personal record of 20 in one scene in this book (hence the title). And as for porn, he borrows tapes from a friend and, using two VCRs, laboriously edits hundreds of hours of pornography into highlight tapes that cut out all of the story, all of the men’s faces and asses, leaving only the good parts, which he can use for future inspiration.

Spent spans eight years in Matt’s life, which is exactly how long it took to create the book. We first meet him talking with fellow cartoonist Seth, and later he has lunch with Seth and another cartoonist, Chester. They’ll look, sound and act awfully familiar to anyone who’s read Seth’s brilliant It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, in which the pair also both appear.

The book actually bears quite a strong resemblance to Seth’s; the two cartoonists have a very similar style in terms of their thick lines and sparse details, and both use black-and-white washed with a single color.

Matt’s tale is a lot more wincingly, shudder-inducingly revelatory than Seth’s ... or just about anyone else’s, actually. Matt (or at least his comics avatar) seems like a bit of a psycho, and that’s what gives the book punch beyond its visual appeal. No matter how much you might shake your head at the star and his behavior (and his porn habit is hardly the worst of it), there will come a point where you’ll see some of yourself in him.
 
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Joe Matt

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Spent




  EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated July 10, 2007


It's a cornucopia of comics for adults
By Cliff Froehlich
SPECIAL TO THE POST-DISPATCH
07/08/2007


EXIT WOUNDS:

"The narrative keeps taking surprising but believable turns, and Modan avoids both melodramatic confrontations and tidy resolutions..."

SPENT:

"Matt's work, because of his deceptively charming cartooning, looks innocent enough, but the story chronicles, with unflinching frankness, his addiction to pornography. In certain passages — an extended sequence in which three cartoonists gab at a restaurant — it can be argued that he's mimicking the numbing sameness of porno, but Matt's always funny and brilliantly self-aware."
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Rutu Modan

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Spent




JOE MATT in The New York Press

Updated July 6, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: THE NAKED TRUTH
Joe Matt’s spent after all that whacking off
By Brian Heater


“As I’m speaking, I’m naked on the floor, with a small fan blowing on me.” Taken out of context, it could almost be some charmingly misguided attempt at telephone eroticism. Joe Matt, however, speaks the phrase with a characteristically dry frankness, capping it off with, “It’s not an appetizing thought, but I’m like a nudist. I like being naked. My life is basically my being in my room, naked, looking at books, all of the time.”

And with that, whether deliberate or not, Matt sums himself up in a nutshell, both literally and spiritually. Opening one of his books is like catching the artist naked, walking into his room unexpectedly, only he doesn’t try to cover up or make apologies, and at no point attempts to push you out of the room. He knows that whatever he was doing, when you abruptly entered through open the door, was perhaps wrong or embarrassing or unwholesome on some level, but he’s too tired or indifferent or lazy to make amends.

Spent is a graphic novel about vices—not drugs or alcohol or money, though Matt does devote much of his life to complaining about his poverty. Matt’s addiction is porn. The artist devotes eight hours a day to editing his massive collection of tapes, lying flat on his stomach, switching between two VCRs—that is, when he’s not attempting to break his own masturbation records (an impressive 20 times in one day). “I’m sure some of my readers relate to my character,” Matt explains. “I think a housewife in the middle of America can enjoy it for what it is.”

There is something strangely universal in Matt’s very self-specific story. So what, I have to ask, is there in a book about obsessive habits centering around a porn addiction that a middle-American housewife can come away with? “I think any pleasurable addiction is universal. For a housewife, it’s drinking while her husband is away or overeating or something.” It’s certainly not some sort of vast moral that Matt sends his reader away with. Matt’s character refuses to grow or mature at the end of the book, and though he winds up literally covered in shit in the final pages, one gets the feeling that, by the time he washes himself off, he’ll be ready to launch straight back into his old habits.

Matt also chalks some of the book’s appeal up to his improved artistic abilities, “It’s my fourth book, and of all my books, it’s the one that I’ve put the most work into. The coloring makes it look the best, and the lettering, too. My craft has gotten better. The more I do, the better I get.” Matt spent more time working on the book than any previous work—taking nearly a decade to complete the four comics serialized in the anthology (including, of course, the full years devoted to sitting around doing nothing), and resulting in a book of which the artist couldn’t be more proud. So, will he invest the same amount of effort into his follow-up? “It was just too self-defeating and unpleasant. I didn’t want to work, with the process being so unpleasant,” Matt answers in that famously flat delivery. “I’ll probably never put that much effort in again.” Now that’s the Joe Matt we know and love.
 
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Joe Matt

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Spent




  Part 2 of Joe Matt's Daily Crosshatch interview

Updated July 3, 2007


Interview: The Return of Joe Matt Pt. 2
July 2, 2007

Some girls like the whole self-effacing thing—heck, it’s probably even possible to find a few out there who dig guys who draw funny cartoon books for a living. So, what exactly is it about Joe Matt that’s caused the artist to stay single for so long? Is it the whole masturbating 20 times a day, thing? Or maybe it’s the part about peeing into a jug to avoid contact with his fellow man? Or perhaps it’s the fact that he habitually catalogues such peculiar habits, for all the comic-reading public to see.

Whatever the case may be, Matt’s chronic dissatisfaction has proved an endless resource of comic fodder, through volumes of his tome, Peepshow, which countinues with the recent release of Spent, a collection of books from the aforementioned series. While we do honestly feel for the guy, there’s a definite sense that, were Joe Matt ever to become, you know, happy, his comics just wouldn’t be quite as good.

Does that make us bad people?


How much of the new book do you have worked out?

I have the story worked out in my notes and in my head. It’s not solely focused around HBO. It’s more focused on one huge relationship that I’ve had out here, and a few smaller ones that preceded it.

Will you still be able to carry on with the introspection that you liked so much in [Spent]? Will that still translate?

Yeah, it will, but the focus will not be on porn addiction. It’ll be on other things, including more about money or TV—things other than porn.

Will there still be a lot you in a room?

Of course. The room is a constant. The room I had in Toronto was basically just transplanted in LA. As I’m speaking, I’m naked on the floor, with a small fan blowing on me, which could just as well be in Toronto. Another thing is, in Spent, even though I’m in my room all the time, I don’t draw myself naked, but I’m usually naked, all of the time. It’s not an appetizing thought, but I’m like a nudist. I like being naked. My life is basically my being in my room, naked, looking at books, all of the time.

Was Fair Weather a tough book to tackle, being so removed from this consistency of your adult life?

Yes. Fair Weather was just a weird exercise for me. I don’t know what I was doing. After I finished the Poor Bastard, I had no ideas. I had no relationships and nothing was going on in my life. I felt no suitable fodder for a book, and I was greatly influenced by Chester’s I Never Liked You, so I wanted to try to revisit my past, but it didn’t feel real to me. The picture of myself as a child just came out weird. It seemed like a mixture of Dennis the Menace and myself. Good God.

It’s an experiment that you’re not planning on repeating any time soon?

I plan on repeating it someday with a teenage version of myself, like high school and stuff. I do want to do that. I can only do one book about these things—a definitive childhood story and a definitive teenage story. I would like to capture my teenage years. It was a horrible period, and I’m scarred by it. Those memories very potent still.

Do you consider yourself a happier person now than you were back then?

Oh yeah, definitely. It’s weird, though “happier” is an odd phrase. What makes someone happy?

Are you less miserable? Is that more appropriate?

Well, what makes someone miserable? The reasons I was miserable in high school aren’t the same reasons I’m miserable now. Now we’re at a boom of comic strip and comic book reprints. You can buy every issue of the Fantastic Four in black and white, for next to nothing. You couldn’t do any of that in the comic shops when I was a teenager, in the late-70s. Now there’s so much more stuff out.

You can also do more now just because you’re an adult.

Exactly. I can buy all of the candy I want, and eat it [laughs].

I think most of us were miserable in our teen years. Do you feel like you were more unhappy than most?

I think everybody thinks that about themselves, but I’m sure were all just equally miserable, at least the more introspective, geeky types. Too often people just generalize other people. It’s like, “oh, those are the jocks and the geeks.” The whole hormonal, sexual thing was hard to endure. But I’m older now, so it’s not such a big deal.

Is there a universal aspect in all of your books? Do people pick them up because there’s something in each one that they can relate to?

Oh don’t know who picks up my books and why. I’m sure some of my readers relate to my character. I think a housewife in the middle of America can enjoy it for what it is. I try to adhere to a level of craft that makes it more universal, regardless of the content, but I don’t know if I’m succeeding…Sales indicate otherwise.

Can you point to something in Spent that a housewife in middle America can relate to?

Sure. I think any pleasurable addiction is universal. For a housewife, it’s drinking, while her husband is away, or overeating or something. Part of me is detached from my comics, as well. When I re-read that conversation with Chester and Seth, I still laugh. I’m my best audience. I find it funny. It’s almost like I’m removed from it. I recently had to do all of these proofreads and corrections for the new printing of The Poor Bastard, and while I read it, it was cracking my up. It was almost like I didn’t write it. Stuff in The Poor Bastard, like when I’m obsessed with this Asian girl, and she’s into Asyrian culture, and I read up on it, pretending to be knowledgable, it all happened, but reading it in the comic is like reading a scrapbook or photo album. It brings back the memories, and I laugh at myself.

–Brian Heater
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Spent




SPENT in The Toronto Star

Updated June 26, 2007


Spent
Joe Matt
James Grainger
TORONTO STAR
Jun 24, 2007

The sad exploits of a porn addict
Joe Matt puts two real-life Canadian graphic novel stars, buddies both, right into the pitiless story of his own alter ego


Confession has long replaced wisdom, analysis and experience as the true measure of personal authenticity in the court of popular culture, as a slew of daytime talk fests and reality shows and tell-all memoirs will attest. The more secrets and sins that a fading or wannabe celebrity is willing to publicly confess, the better the chance of penetrating the collective consciousness and memory.

This being the case, graphic novelist Joe Matt may well be remembered for possessing one of the most authentic selves in history. For nearly 20 years, Matt's Peepshow comic has chronicled his sins and spectacular personal failures as a man, boyfriend and artist with an aggressive, clinical candour that borders on the pathological. From his pathetic stinginess to his obsessive masturbation habit, addiction to pornography and crass mistreatment of his long-suffering girlfriend, Matt lays it all on the page, apology-free.

Matt, a Philadelphia native who lived illegally for a number of years in Toronto, where his comics are set, has seen his work eclipsed by the success of what appears to be his only two friends, Ontarians both – Seth, whose nostalgia-infused illustrations regularly appear in The New Yorker and other magazines, and Chester Brown, author of such graphic novels as Ed the Happy Clown and Louis Riel.

The three friends launched their careers in the 1980s, part of a generation of graphic novelists who helped establish the genre as a legitimate highbrow art form. Matt's bleak subject matter and scant output have made him the least known of the trio but to some fans, such as myself, the most compelling.

The reasons for Matt's diminished artistic output are one of the three or four themes that tie together the narrative in his newest graphic novel, Spent, which collects the most recent four issues of Peepshow and may signal an end to the series' protracted Toronto storyline (Matt recently moved to Los Angeles).

Matt's on-paper alter ego is way behind on the latest instalment of Peepshow, a delay brought on by the energy-draining effects of masturbating at least five times a day and devoting too many working hours to bootlegging his favourite hardcore porno scenes (with all shots of the male actors' faces carefully edited out). He has long given up hope of reconciling with his ex-girlfriend, who never forgave him for publishing, in comics form, his detailed masturbation fantasies about her best friend. There are no romantic prospects on the horizon.

With his personal and professional life reduced to twin outputs of diminishing returns, Matt bickers in diners and bookstores with Seth and Chester, who try to tease him into turning his life around. Matt relentlessly punishes himself for his failures, only to deflect the blame onto anyone he's ever crossed paths with, including his mother and a girl who taunted him as a boy, before collapsing into nihilistic self-loathing, thereby initiating the whole cycle again.

What separates Matt from so many practitioners of the confessional art is his refusal to petition the reader's sympathies. He doesn't blame his emotional retardation on a crappy childhood (not completely), and on the few occasions that he attempts to transform his pathetic behaviour into sympathetic comedy, with a Seinfeldesque burst of glib irony or a self-deprecating one-liner, he draws the Joe Matt character with a wincing, grotesque smile clearly intended to repulse the reader.

If Matt were just a guy on the next barstool, blubbering to anyone who will listen, he'd cut a pathetic figure indeed. Luckily for us, he is an artist who takes remarkable care with his work. Matt's clean, jaunty lines hearken back to the Golden Age of the Sunday funnies, creating an unnerving disconnect between his graphic subject matter and nostalgic aesthetic. Spent is pure comic book art, the individual panels nudging the plot (such as it is) forward with dramatic compression.

Matt also plays with the story's content and form by reminding the reader that they are holding a comic book whose creator, for all his gormless self-absorption, has carefully chosen only those autobiographical incidents that best serve the drama unfolding on the page. In one scene he even comments on the very comic the reader has just finished reading, calling it "page after page of (Matt) whining about porn. It's masturbation in comic form."

It's hard to guess whether Matt really believes his work is just "masturbation in comic form" or is deflecting potential criticism by acknowledging its limitations. But this ambiguity, this continual guessing at what could possibly motivate a man to so tirelessly catalogue his own failings, is one of the many reasons to return to Matt's work.
 
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  Joe Matt on Gothamist.com

Updated June 26, 2007


Pam Beesley Recommends: MoCCA Art Festival

We may have to wait until next April for Comic Con in New York, but there's plenty of comic goodness over at the Puck Building this weekend at the MoCCA Art Festival. Their well-punctuated description promises a generous dose of the genre: "Meet comics and cartoon artists! Four full ballrooms of cartoonists and publishers! Get sketches and autographs from Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Staton, Arthur Suydam and others at the MoCCA Fundraising Sketch Table! Buy comics, comix, cartoons, graphic novels as well as prints and original artwork! Sit in on our always entertaining and educational panel sessions!"

What's more, the show is Pam Beesley recommended! The Office's Jenna Fischer, who was in New York for a bit recovering from a back injury (and roaming Central Park with Fred Armisen "asking total strangers to photograph" them at night), writes on her MySpace blog: "My cartoonist friend Joe Matt is out of his apartment and signing copies of his new book, Spent. We went to his LA signing last week. It was incredible. He's my favorite. If you are in New York he'll be at the New York MoCCA Arts Festival on Sunday June 24th at 4pm."
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Spent




Joe Matt in The Onion

Updated June 19, 2007


Joe Matt
Quimby’s, 7:30pm, free
THE ONION CHICAGO

Cartoonist Joe Matt began his career drawing cutesy one-page autobiographical comics that remained bright and refreshing, even as Matt gradually shed all attempts to make himself look nobly misunderstood and began portraying himself as a lonely miser obsessed with pornography. With his new, book-length Spent—eight years in the making—Matt’s long wallow in his pathetic life has become practically unbearable (but that’s kind of the point). Here, Matt will be interviewed by Ivan Brunetti and signing copies of Spent. If he’s anything in person like he is in his comics, he’ll eagerly talk about himself, no matter how embarrassing it is.
 

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Joe Matt

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Spent




  JOE MATT interview on Suicide Girls

Updated June 18, 2007


Joe Matt
By Daniel Robert Epstein
Jun 12, 2007
SUICIDEGIRLS.COM

With Spent, autobiographical cartoonist Joe Matt has finally laid to rest his pornography and masturbation addiction. Jerking off 20 times a day will do that to you. In the grand tradition of Robert Crumb, Matt has been exploring his suburban-like depravity for years in his autobiographical comic book Peepshow, which has been collected in a number of trade paperbacks. His latest, Spent, focuses on the period after he broke up with his long time and long suffering girlfriend Trish and Matt is quickly falling headfirst into his addictions. But man does he do it in a funny way. I got a chance to talk with Matt from his home in Los Angeles.

Check out the website for Spent

Daniel Robert Epstein: So I was told you've become a bit more paranoid since our last interview.
Joe Matt: Sort of, yeah. Depending on my mood, I don't trust what I'm going to say. I don't trust my mouth on the phone like this.
DRE:
How's your mood today?
Joe:
It's okay. [laughs]
DRE:
What are you up to today?
Joe:
Not much, I was in the middle of writing a letter when the phone rang. I'm sending a letter to a girl that I like. I was just at the library checking my email. Then I was reading some Sherlock Holmes and the newspaper in a local donut shop…the same donut shop that Jack Nance, star of "Eraserhead,” was killed in.
DRE:
When did you start the issues that are collected in Spent?
Joe:
I'm not sure...eight or nine years ago...possibly ten.
DRE:
Oh my God.
Joe:
It's almost a decade I would say.
DRE:
That's a long time.
Joe:
I wasted years not working. It's not like it took me all that time to do those four issues.
DRE:
Besides when you write about your childhood, it seems like you mostly write about the periods in your life as Trish and then there's post-Trish. What makes you so obsessed with that time?
Joe:
I feel obligated to be complete with the chronology of things as they happened and I'm nowhere near caught up to present day. I wanted the things in "Spent" to follow "The Poor Bastard." "The Poor Bastard" ends with me watching porn. The focus of "Spent" is the porn obsession that I plunged into after Trish. As a topic I'm just focused on porn in "Spent," but a lot of things have happened to me since Trish, because that was so many years ago.
DRE:
I read on your MySpace blog a comment some guy left saying, "Why do you keep talking about Trish?" You wrote, "I'm getting through it."
Joe:
It is odd to be still talking and mentioning her this many years later. I've had a number of relationships since then. The book I'm currently working on now is about LA. I'm trying to recap my last few relationships from the last decade, and everything that's happened to me in LA. I'm just not telling it in the same manner of "Spent." "Spent" is really just long, unbroken scenes of dialogue. Even if I'm alone in my room, it's still just word balloons.
DRE:
When "Fair Weather" came out and we did our interview, someone wrote that they were glad that I didn't ask you about the porn obsession. I was going to try and avoid it this time as well but it cannot be done with "Spent." Is doing this stuff making you a better person?
Joe:
I think better is the wrong word to ask. I stopped producing work somewhat the last five years or so partly to see how it would affect my mood and my well-being. My first two and a half years in LA, I didn't work at all and I was in a great relationship and I was super happy. The cathartic benefits of producing comics wasn't even present and I was still very happy.
DRE:
But you also had other things going on like "The Poor Bastard" pilot.
Joe:
The pilot was nothing. The pilot was just getting together with these guys and writing a little bit. The pilot wasn't reality. It wasn't like my hopes were up. Writing the pilot for HBO was very stressful and I really didn't want it to move forward. I was just playing along to get that paycheck for writing the pilot. I didn't really expect or envision it going ahead. I didn't visualize myself on a set filming these actors speaking these lines. I never thought it would get that far and it didn't.
DRE:
How did the pilot get started?
Joe:
Some friends of mine mailed "The Poor Bastard" to HBO and Showtime. It really is the cliché of who you know out here. My friends' agent knew people at those networks and they got me meetings with both of them. I took the meetings and I think they probably found my indifference to the whole thing refreshing. I was never looking to switch careers from a cartoonist to anything to do with TV or film. Once you sign your rights away, you lose control of everything. You don't own what you're working on so you don't care about it the same way.
DRE:
This must have been after HBO produced "American Splendor."
Joe:
Yeah and I saw a trailer of "American Splendor" and I immediately wanted two sets of actors playing me. I wanted to hire somebody to pretend to be the real me and then another playing the fake me. That would have been tricky but I wanted to do something that wasn't just like a dumb sitcom. I always thought that was where it was heading. I tried to control it and it was still going in that direction in the end. TV is certainly not my medium because I didn't have that inventiveness or original approach to TV or film. Take the American version of "The Office,” which I love. The fact that the camera is floating around the office, doing that fake documentary approach...if I had just seen that earlier I would have been like, “Let's do that!" because it feels more honest when everyone is aware of the camera. "American Splendor" felt more honest because the real Harvey Pekar was in it. That honesty is really what I'm drawn towards. This is why I'm hesitant to go into TV or film.
DRE:
How was working with [Futurama co-creator] David Cohen on the pilot?
Joe:
David is great. It was David and Donick Cary, another Simpsons writer. I don't like to work with other people. I don't like to write with other people. So I fought a lot with them.
DRE:
What was the issue?
Joe:
HBO was giving us mixed messages right from the beginning. They didn't seem to know what they really wanted. We turned in a script that was based on the first part of "The Poor Bastard" where I had a crush on that girl Frankie. That's what they asked for. But then they asked us to write a whole different script about the Andy and Kim characters. It was just obnoxious of them to hire us to write the script and then jerk us around and ask for a whole fucking new script. We should have just stood up for ourselves and said "Fuck you" to them. It was like, "You just got a script that we've been working on for like a month or something." All that effort was for nothing. If I felt stronger about the material, I wouldn't have been like that, but I didn't. There's always this desperate quality in me when I'm around these Hollywood types. I feel like, I haven't got my hands on any money and I just want to play along until I get some money. But the money never really comes.
DRE:
They must have given you option money.
Joe:
Option money was only five grand. But that's not much to sign your life away and risk everything and be worried about it. I was very apprehensive because I just wanted something good to be made and I didn't care if it failed miserably and went straight to DVD. I would have been proud if the show was just good. I didn't care about the success of it. Like I said, there was no original thinking going on in terms of reinventing the material for the TV show. It was just, "Let's just adapt it almost line for line and turn it into a show, for no other reason than to make it live action."
DRE:
It sounds like you wanted to bring something new to the table and you just couldn't bring it out.
Joe:
Yeah, exactly and nobody else was doing it. Nobody else was suggesting anything that was impressing me.
DRE:
Does HBO own the scripts you guys wrote?
Joe:
Yeah I guess they own the script, but they never got my rights. Their option expired like less than a year after we wrote the script and I haven't pursued anyone since. I haven't done anything since then. I haven't had a single meeting or tried to get anything done since then. I'm just been glad to be free of it all.
DRE:
Were Chester [Brown] and Seth going to be characters?
Joe:
Yeah, they were characters. Though Chester and Seth and even myself would have been unwilling to let our names be used as the characters' names because I didn't have any confidence that the show would be any good. I didn't even want my character's name to be Joe Matt. It's too frightening to think that millions of people will see this and this is what I'll be known for. I'll be known for this stupid TV show and not my comics. It's frightening to feel that loss of control and the money didn't compensate for it. I didn't like my deal. I didn't like my contract. It just seemed really not worth it. When I draw comics about this, I'll actually give all the figures of everything. But it's not as good as you ever think it's going to be. There's no such thing as free money or easy money. Even writing the pilot, I feel like I earned every penny I got and I've just been living off that money ever since. It wasn't a lot of money so I'm still just as broke as ever.
DRE:
Obviously there are a lot of autobiographical and semi-autobiographical books out there and it seems like I'm always interviewing one of them. They always say stuff like how they don't want to do navel-gazing comics and then they'll say your name. But then they'll say how much they love your work. Is that insulting?
Joe:
No, it's not an insult at all. I'm a voyeur and I'm trying to make the book I would most enjoy reading. I would imagine other voyeurs are interested if it's done well. I think autobiographical comics have been given a bad name simply because of the fact that I've focused a lot on porn and masturbation. I feel like that's colored the whole genre for some people. Not every autobiographical cartoonist is doing that. I'm following Crumb's lead where he explores his obsessions, at least with women. But there's not a dozen other cartoonists out there doing what I'm doing, which is obsessing with porn and masturbation.
I focus on these topics in "Spent" simply to put them behind me. To say all I could about them and not have to revisit them over and over.
DRE:
Are you less into pornography and jerking off 20 times a day?
Joe:
I would say, yes I'm less into it simply because I'm older. My body's changing. I'm mellowing out. Crumb says the same thing about his sex drive. I'm 43 and my sex drive is not what it used to be. Masturbation is a tool to deaden the emotions and depending on my emotional state, the need to deaden them or the desire to deaden or dull them depends on what I'm going through or what I'm putting myself through at the time. So the happier I am, the more content I am so the less I'm interested in escaping.
DRE:
But sex doesn't deaden your emotions.
Joe:
An orgasm does. An orgasm always deadens my emotions. The post-orgasmic state is what I constantly want to revisit because it's blissful. It is like shooting heroin. It's an emotional detachment from reality. At least it is for me.
DRE:
Do you have a girlfriend now?
Joe:
No, I don't.
DRE:
For the most part women will not be happy with deadened emotions, especially after you've just had sex with them.
Joe:
I've only had one girlfriend since I've been in LA. We were together for two years. But it was like a year and a half ago when we broke up. I'm more female than male in certain regards. I'm very affectionate and loving and into the whole cuddling phase. Sex with another person is different than sex alone.

My emotions are dulled and that's the feeling that I want to revisit constantly but the word "spent" is also in reference to my miserable comic career. It's hard to balance everything. It's hard to deal with the porn and masturbation and then be productive and still have a relationship. It's too much for me to juggle.
DRE:
I did an interview with Chester Brown a few years ago for "Louis Riel" and I asked him if he missed you. I was very surprised when he said he didn't miss you. Later when I saw him at MOCCA he said you were very upset by that.
Joe:
Yeah, but only half. I don't take him seriously. He misses me and I miss him. But Chet and I live very much in the moment. Chet certainly more than me. It was Chester who recommended the book, "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle to me, which I keep mentioning on my MySpace profile. "The Power of Now" is a really good book. It reaffirms common sense things basically. It is common sense to live in the present and not dwell in the past. I had enough of living in Toronto. I made the decision to leave because I couldn't take it anymore. So when Chester mentions that he doesn't miss me, I'm sure he's sincere. Why should he miss me? He's got new things going. He's got other stuff. I don't spend my days sitting around missing Chet either, or my family for that matter. You can't keep yourself in this miserable state of missing people. It's concentrating your energies in the wrong direction. Chester was never one for that.
DRE:
You seem to really be cultivating an audience on MySpace.
Joe:
I only got into MySpace to look for a girlfriend. But after a couple of months, it was really apparent that most people weren't using it as a singles site.
DRE:
No, it's more of a networking thing.
Joe:
Yeah and I couldn't really find anyone I was that interested in. I found girls lots of cute girls but no one was thrilling me or writing back to me the way I wanted. So I quickly gave up and then I felt that I had to stay on because fans were contacting me. I really feel like people have the wrong impression of how lucrative the cartooning business is because there's no money in it.
DRE:
Do you think you'll be surprised when the book comes out and Jenna Fischer's fans come out of the woodwork and start buying the book?
Joe:
I don't know if anyone will buy it. Harvey Pekar was on Letterman and his sales didn't really improve. I'm not looking to exploit Jenna Fischer's friendship. Her fans do not care about comics by and large. The entire population doesn't care. My publisher keeps telling me sales are better than ever and more people are paying attention but I still haven't seen a paycheck that has proven this. Maybe that will change when "Spent" comes out and "The Poor Bastard" is back in print. But even when it was in print it wasn't doing brisk business at all.
DRE:
You said you went to the library to go on the internet. Do you still not have a phone, own a house or a computer?
Joe:
No, I don't want a computer in my room. I don't want to have to try to control myself around these things. I don't have any self-discipline. I moved to LA three years ago and I brought very little with me. The books that I have here are the books that I've bought since I've moved here. I'm really fortunate because I live right next door to a library. I'm in there every day so I take books out and I return them and I take other books out. I'm just constantly reading and enjoying my life in coffee shops and restaurants. I'm living very meagerly but I'm very happy.
DRE:
You haven't gotten into internet porn then.
Joe:
I feel like my usage of porn has peaked and is behind me.
DRE:
If you got a computer you'd enter into a new phase.
Joe:
Probably. It's like a bag of potato chips in my room. I'd eat the whole thing immediately. I don't just eat a couple of potato chips, I eat the entire bag until I get sick. The same with candy.
DRE:
I read you won't be doing single issues for a little bit. You're going to do your next work as a graphic novel.
Joe:
That's correct. I don't want to lose my momentum with having to work on letter pages and covers because every time I got an issue out I always felt so fulfilled that I wouldn't even work for six months afterwards. I felt like I had just put something substantial out but in fact it was only 24 pages. Also, I don't want to have to try to take into consideration that the issue by itself would have to read like a unit. I just want to visualize and work on the book as a whole.
DRE:
Plus if you feel like your sales aren't that good for the monthly one, you might as well wait and put out that big book.
Joe:
Did you say monthly? [laughs]
DRE:
Or whatever. [laughs]
Joe:
Even annually isn't that accurate. [laughs]
DRE:
Who do you hang out with in LA?
Joe:
I don't really see that many people. Yesterday I saw a friend of mine Lindsey, that I met on MySpace. She's not a girlfriend or anything, she's just a friend and I hung out with her and her ex-boyfriend yesterday. She's a big fan of SuicideGirls and I told her I would be doing this interview and she was all excited. But we met yesterday at Meltdown Comic Shop here in LA. Then we had lunch and I went back to their place and I played with their hairless cat.
DRE:
Besides this book about LA are you planning any other books?
Joe:
No, just this book about LA.

I would like to collect those Jam-strips I did with other people. My publisher, Chris Oliveros, and Chester and Seth are the main collaborators of this material. We did all the stuff in sketchbooks but nobody wants to put that stuff out.
DRE:
You really can't find someone to put that out?
Joe:
I would only want Drawn and Quarterly to do it. I could spend the next few months putting that book together but I don't want to right now. I feel like I've got to move quicker on this recent material because I'm writing about a previous relationship and the further I get away from it, the less urgent it feels. The potency of those emotions just fades over time.
DRE:
Are you staying in LA?
Joe:
For the time being. At least another year. I can't afford to stay here.
DRE:
I'm amazed that you've been there for so long.
Joe:
I'm draining my savings account as we speak. I have no Plan B, either I move back in with my Mom or I kill myself. I can't see myself getting a job or anything. But if I had to make money tomorrow I would probably apply at the public library or a post office. I wouldn't know how to get an illustration career going the way Seth has. I don't think of myself as an illustrator. I tried that after college but nothing happened. I showed my portfolio around and it was just horrible.
DRE:
I'm sure it took Seth at least ten years before he started getting regular work.
Joe:
Yeah, it seems very desperate to run around with a portfolio trying to get work. The same way an actor runs around and auditions. It can't be pleasant.
DRE:
I'm sure it feels demeaning.
Joe:
It feels desperate and it is desperate because you're trying to get work. I would just rather have a regular, steady, crummy job if I had to get a paycheck.
DRE:
You've done some coloring work in the past.
Joe:
Yeah, but now all the coloring is done on computers. I haven't a clue how that's done. I can never color superhero comics again.
DRE:
Are you collecting anything in particular now?
Joe:
I don't think so. I'm looking around my room. There's nothing. Just books. Every Wednesday afternoon, I go to the comics shop and see what new books came out. Just a couple hours ago I was sitting here reading the Superman reprints from the 60's.
DRE:
I like that stuff but sometimes the repetition gives me a headache.
Joe:
Sure, you can't read too much of it at once. I'm not crazy about the Superman stuff, like I am about [Jack] Kirby. I was recently reading the Essential Thors. I can't put that stuff down. Or like the Essential Fantastic Four. I can't stop, they're so great.
DRE:
Are you still into Asian women?
Joe:
Not so much Asian. I'm older and I don't feel quite as shallow as I used to be.
DRE:
Do you have a specific woman that you go after now?
Joe:
It's the same but I'm too old now to actually pursue that ideal now. I'm 43 and I can't be pursuing 20 year olds. It's pointless.
DRE:
When we last spoke, your girlfriend at the time was originally a fan of yours. Are you still looking for a fan to be a girlfriend?
Joe:
No, not at all. In fact my last girlfriend wasn't a fan at all. The whole time we went out she never saw me work. She never saw me as a cartoonist or an artist or anything.
DRE:
Why did she go out with you then?
Joe:
We just liked being around each other. It was a great relationship while it lasted. There was no fighting. I don't go after fans; it's always embarrassing and doomed for failure.
DRE:
Many of the SuicideGirls have tattoos and piercings, do you like that?
Joe:
It depends on the specific tattoo and how it looks and where it is. It's the same with piercings, there's good and bad.
DRE:
What if they have a Gasoline Alley tattoo?
Joe:
It's not what the tattoo is a picture of, but where it is. This conversation is going horribly wrong. I just look like a schlub. I'm just a guy in a t-shirt and crummy jeans and I don't look right next to anybody that has any sense of fashion. I can't even imagine going out with any girl that's really got any fashion sense going on. First of all, those kinds of girls aren't interested in me. They tend to go for guys that look right with them. The girls that I'm most attracted to are those who don't have a fashion sense. I like a girl that's almost like a female version of me.
DRE:
If you got a tattoo, what would it be of?
Joe:
I wouldn't get a tattoo. But it would be most tempting to get a cartoon character like Popeye or Charlie Brown or something. I like a tattoo that reads from a distance. Something graphically simple, something symmetrical. The thing I don't like about tattoos is when there are too many colors and they cover the entire arm and it looks like a birth defect or something. You look at someone's arm at a distance and you see this weird staining of colors covering their arm.

by Daniel Robert Epstein
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JAMES STURM'S AMERICA, KING-CAT CLASSIX, SPENT and EXIT WOUNDS in The Globe & Mail

Updated June 18, 2007


GRAPHICA
Art imitating life imitating ... well, you get the idea
Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, God and golem, doodled cats and suicide bombers
NATHALIE ATKINSON
June 9, 2007
THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Exploring the darker side of the supernatural, from acts of blind faith and men driven insane by guilt, James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems (Drawn & Quarterly, 190 pages, $27.95) brings together the cartoonist's American trilogy, previously unavailable in its entirety in book form. Sturm chooses a drawing style unique to each story's period and setting. First, he looks heavenward in The Revival, imagining thousands of pioneer settlers attending an impromptu gospel meeting in Cane Ridge, Ky., in 1801, with finely detailed line work that evokes various illustration styles of early American broadsheets.

Turning to a heavier use of black, Sturm moves underground with Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight for the tale of a 19th-century mining town and the greed that only gold can breed, playing with darkness and contrast on the page.

Then, as he moves into the 20th century for the final and strongest novella, The Golem's Mighty Swing, he employs a more simplified and modern cartooning style. A barnstorming Jewish baseball team called the Stars of David travels through Depression-era middle America and exploits the public's interest in the supernatural - specifically, the golem legend. They use their giant baseball player, who happens to be black (a "member of the lost tribe"), to draw a crowd in the stands, until at one game, faced with extreme anti-Semitism, they only narrowly escape a bloodthirsty mob: "It's no surprise things got out of hand. That is the nature of the golem."
...
In stark contrast, John Porcellino's King-Cat Classix (D&Q, 383 pages, $33.95) is a collection of his self-published, photocopied and folded comic zines (1989-1996). Even assembled in a slick hardcover format, the stories retain the folksy, DIY charm of the original.

Porcellino's short stories and observations about his life and the nature around him are simple and spare, but manage to capture his awe at the world, and this sensibility is echoed in his minimalist drawing style: a haiku or Zen parable told in the cartoon shorthand of artful doodles. They have the deceptively simple allure of a Ron Sexsmith song.

Another long-time comics insider, the pathetic, self-deprecating Joe Matt, finds himself exhausted financially, sexually and creatively in Spent (D&Q, 120 pages, $22.95), the latest instalment in his series of ever-more-confessional autobiographical comics. The infamous cartoon onanist is a mix of Harvey Pekar and Larry David (if they peed in a jar, watched porn all day, obsessed over past injustices, girlfriends and money, and then watched more porn), and Matt's style does what classical American cartooning is supposed to do: tell the story without drawing attention to itself.

But the marrying of tone, content and drawing style is perhaps most elegantly accomplished in Exit Wounds (D&Q, 172 pages, $21.95), the first long work by Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan (a member of the publishing collective Actus Tragicus, a dominant force in Israeli comics). After a young man learns that his estranged father may be the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing, a female soldier drags him on her search for answers. But it is not the outcome that matters. The political conflict and the tension of everyday life in Israel introduced by the bombing contribute to the tone of the story like any other background detail, but are not part of the puzzle. Instead, Modan uses the situation to create relationships between characters and then explore them, without any trace of sentimentality. Her main characters are fallible, at times unappealing, selfish or duplicitous, but these flaws are mundane rather than crucial.

Modan's art, too, is dispassionate. Using largely flat, watercolour hues and a consistent clear line, she creates an effect that is subdued and subtle. Elements of her style echo Hergé, but she eschews his right angles - people are realistically lumpy, not geometric - and her panels more tightly frame the characters. In the end, that's where the real story lies: There is no resolution, only the banal, sometimes petty, powerfully understated elements of human relationships.
 
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  The Daily Crosshatch on Joe Matt

Updated June 5, 2007


Spent by Joe Matt
June 4, 2007 at 8:03 am | In Reviews |

Spent
By Joe Matt
Drawn & Quarterly

There are two good reasons to read a Joe Matt book. First, he’s a talented cartoonist, with a solid, quasi-cartoony line-style, and the ability to cull interesting stories from the banalities of his everyday life.

The second is Matt’s everyday life, itself. No matter what sort of existence you lead, there’s sure to be something in the artist’s autobiographical works bound to make you feel slightly better about it, being that someone out there actually possesses fouler habits than your own, or, at the very least, something on-par.

Sloth, lust, envy, greed, wrath—Matt runs the gamut in Spent, but fortunately, the artist stays clear of pride for long enough to create one of the most brutally honest autobiographical portraits in recent memory. Not brutal in the serial-killer/mass murder autobiographical sense—those stories are more often than not given to flights of fancy. Matt doesn’t do anything of the sort—in fact, over the course of Spent, he doesn’t really do much of anything at all, and as anyone who’s ever spoken with the artist can testify, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

A day in the life of Matt over the run of the book consists of editing together pornography for his personal collection (using two VCRs and narrating the delicate process to himself, all the while); breaking his own masturbation records (20 times in a day!); peeing into a jug, in order to avoid running into his much-hated housemates on the trip to his shared bathroom; and above all, avoiding work at all costs.

It’s tough to feel much sympathy for Matt—the only thing standing between the artists and a fruitful and intensely sought after career is his own violent opposition to anything remotely resembling work, but the artist, much to his credit, doesn’t attempt to elicit sympathy for the lackadaisical hole in which he’s buried himself. In fact, save for the occasional monologue, which seem fairly convincingly pulled from real-life anti-pep talks, Matt offers little in the way of reflection or apologies for his own behavior. There’s nary a lick of narration or exposition in the book.

A few flashbacks do break up the narrative, however, serving to demonstrate the moments that spurred the young Matt into his apathetically circular lifestyle, and for his litany of complaints to fellow cartoonists and diner-frequenters Seth and Chester Brown, Matt seems rather content with a life spent doing nothing in particular. By the book’s end, the artist had no real revelations, and has learned little, if any insight that he might be able to pass onto an audience, despite finding himself literally covered in shit.

Matt’s brand of honesty is among the most painful with which to bear witness, because, no matter how together any given reader might be, we can all see a part of ourselves reflected in his life. Spent includes some of the most telling glimpses into life’s banalities since the glory days of American Splendor, and like some of Pekar’s best work, the poor bastard happily invites us to laugh at him, rather than with him, knowing full well that, in life, we never get the last laugh, but if someone can get a few hearty chuckles or other comfort out of it, then maybe it was worth something, after all.

–Brian Heater

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Joe Matt interview in Columbia Daily Spectator

Updated May 10, 2007


Columbia U.: INTERVIEW: Joe Matt Shamelessly Reveals All
26 April 2007
By John Krauss, Columbia Daily Spectator (Columbia U.)

NEW YORK -- What's your daily masturbation record? Joe Matt's is 20 times -- in six and a half hours.


Cartoonist Joe Matt has been knocking around the comic world for twenty years, shamelessly baring the most embarrassing aspects of his life in his semi-regular strip Peepshow, which has been published in 13 successive issues since 1987. The four most recent strips have been collected in the comic book "Spent," to be released by FSG imprint Drawn & Quarterly later this month.

In an interview by e-mail, Matt managed to unwittingly touch on his own unique appeal when he opened his response with, "Haha ... who else has to answer questions like this?"

It's a revealing question; Matt identifies well-known comic artists such as Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar as his cartoonist heroes-and indeed, he follows directly in their footsteps with his transparently autobiographical work. But Matt carves himself a truly unique niche with "Spent": He delivers a comic book so candid that any other cartoonist would blush to show his closest friends mere preliminary sketches. In "Spent," Matt remorselessly delves into his own personal demons -- masturbation and justification. And with somewhat jarring honesty, he succeeds in depicting himself, or rather his admittedly autobiographical character, as a relatively sympathetic, surprisingly un-creepy individual.

This is a remarkable feat considering five straight pages of "Spent" are close-ups of his face as he edits porn videos. Indeed, Matt likely has the largest porn collection of any contemporary cartoonist (provided he hasn't thrown any of it out) -- an exceptional statement considering the social faculties of your standard cartoonist. The aforementioned editing of porn videos is a primary thread in "Spent"; Matt's character spends so much time borrowing used porn videos, dubbing compilations of these borrowed videos (carefully eliminating every scene with a man), and masturbating to these compilations that he has no time to work on his comic book. The only cure for the malaise caused by this reduced productivity is masturbation. "Spent"'s direct and unforgiving depiction of Matt's "procrasturbation" ties the collection together in one universally appealing theme. Matt admits over e-mail, "If I'm going to give into any of my urges, the sexual ones are probably my favorite. And we all must give into something ... it's just a matter of choice." Matt's character is frequently characterized as lazy; in "Spent," he chooses peeing in a bottle over walking down the stairs to the bathroom. "I don't pee in bottles out of laziness," he defends himself in the comic. "I pee in bottles for practicality's sake." This desperate logicality is classic Matt; it is the same logic that compels his character to live illegally in Canada, "Spent"'s setting, because the U.S. dollar is worth more in Canada. It is the same logic that enables his dream of accumulating a "nest egg" that could some day generate enough interest to liberate him from work entirely -- ignoring that he already does almost no work. Just like his procrasturbation, Matt's proclivity for insane justifications is so appealing because it is a universal tendency that he brings into brutal focus.

As a cartoonist, however, Matt is a perfectionist, an attribute he called "just hellish." From the perspective of the reader, this idiosyncrasy of attitude pays dividends: Matt's illustrations are sparse but powerfully economical. He notably avoids fancy layouts and only occasionally employs extraneous speechless panels, the overall effect of which is to imbue his book with confident form and impeccable rhythm.

Even compared to his previous work, "Spent" is pared down. "I will be trying something different in the near future," Matt said when asked if he would continue his move towards minimalism. This is not surprising. He would be hard-pressed to push further in this direction, as with "Spent," Matt nearly perfects the art of honing away all superfluity.

Ultimately, the focus of Matt's work is the idea of "the classic everyman"; using the model of his meager living in Canada, he attempts to depict the rotten desires at the root of our person, such as his desire to do nothing for a living while still having plenty of orgasms. But what will he turn his pen to now? Having since moved from Canada, he says, "My next book will be about living in L.A. for the past four years ... among other things." Kind of makes you wonder if those "other things" include how he smuggled that porn collection across the border.
 

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  SPENT in the Library Journal

Updated May 9, 2007


LIBRARY JOURNAL
April 17, 2007

Matt, Joe. Spent. Drawn & Quarterly. May 2007. 120p. ISBN 978-1-897299-11-1. $19.95. F

Joe Matt likes porn. And in the autobiographical Spent (which collects issues 11–14 of his aptly named Peepshow ongoing series), he shares just how pivotal a role it plays in his daily personal and social life. Matt's unique adventures include making porn buys in a coffee shop, creating his personal porn compilation tapes (in detailed, step-by-step descriptions), having heated conversations with fellow cartoonists about his art and life, and pissing in a giant bottle so he can avoid his other housemates, whom he finds repulsive and distasteful. Flashbacks show how the social awkwardness of his teen years has carried over to the present, in which he has trouble finding and keeping a girlfriend and seeks shelter in porn. He is aware of the isolating trap he is in yet unwilling or unable to find a way out—"I feel like a prisoner in solitary confinement…just rotting away…and slowly going crazy." These tales could easily have been too grim, sad, and perverse to be readable, but they are saved by the affecting, self-aware, and deeply personal way in which Matt relates them, as well as the strangely cheerful artwork that humanizes his strange adventures and injects a surprising likability into his world. Matt's willingness to expose himself in this way has netted him four Harvey Award nominations for Peepshow—and a strong cult following. Reviewed from the black-and-white galley, this hardcover will be published in color and is an excellent addition for most adult collections (owing to mature content), especially those where similar genre writers such as Harvey Pekar are popular.—David Ward, Univ. of Illinois Undergraduate Lib., Urbana
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SPENT in LA Magazine

Updated May 7, 2007


Spent
Los Angeles Magazine
May 2007

"Plenty of alternative-comics artists have tackled the autobiographical form--Seth, Chris Ware, and R. Crumb spring to mind--but none with the bravado and ickiness of Joe Matt, who recently moved to L.A. from his long-time home of Toronto. In Spent (Drawn & Quarterly, 120 pages, $20), Matt cheats his friends, urinates in a bottle to avoid trips to the bathroom, watches prodigious amounts of videotaped porn, and wonders why he doesn't have a girlfriend. It's all fiction, Matt is fond of saying, and just how much we all lie about our lives is explored in hilariously metafictional asides. Few do decades-spanning regret like this. If a tenth of it is true, Matt is a freak of the highest order, albeit an immensely talented one."
 

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  Eye Weekly reviews SPENT

Updated May 3, 2007


SPRING BOOK GUIDE
LOADS OF LOATHING
CHRIS RANDLE
05.03.07
EYE WEEKLY

His self-absorbed surrogate probably wouldn't realize it, but Joe Matt's new book, Spent (Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95, 120 pages) works as an accurate metaphor for its backdrop of mid-'90s Toronto. The cartoonist's pathetically needy masturbation addiction is pretty much what Mel and co. were doing on behalf of the whole city – Matt's just forthright about it.

References to Cora's Pizza and Sook-Yin Lee aside, the city is not so much a setting in this book as a prison, making our pervy hero's neuroses grow out of control. As the comics critic Joe McCulloch put it: “Matt is spookily good at portraying how external elements in his environment manage to twist themselves in his mind toward pornography.” Matt meets his “connection” for the porn videos he obsessively edits together at the Jet Fuel Café. He ogles a teenage girl while hanging out with fellow cartoonists Seth and Chester Brown (in the book's best scene, with the elder statesmen of Toronto's alt-comics scene bickering as only friends can).

You may ask: why read about such a repellent personality? Because even when Spent edges towards autobio-comics parody – with the self-aware, self-pitying Matt noting “it's not even a story... just page after page of me whining about porn” – it remains inexplicably compelling, a portrait of sweaty insecurity rendered with precise visual storytelling and funny, expressive cartooning. The ongoing series collected here is called Peepshow, after all. That's what Matt offers: a chance to get up close and voyeuristic with humanity's more repulsive aspects, without the need to actually be in the same room as a guy jerking off 20 times in a row. His avatar might call these comics “half fabrication,” but they still stink of honesty.
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Booklist reviews Spent

Updated February 14, 2007


Matt, Joe. Spent. May 2007. 120p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95

Autobiographical-comics creators are a brutally honest breed, and Matt might be the most unflinching of them all. Little has changed in his pathetic life since Fair Weather (2002). He still lives alone in a rooming house, surrounded by his comic-book collection and childhood toys, and spends hours meticulously dubbing the “best parts” off borrowed porn tapes. His only friends are fellow cartoonists Seth and Chester Brown, who have his number and somehow tolerate his self-centered penny-pinching. Most pitiful of all, perhaps, Matt is painfully aware of the pathetic vacuity of his situation and of the aimlessness of the comics he draws. His simple, rubbery drawing style hasn’t changed in 15 years; nor has his navel-gazing, warts-and-all presentation progressed much. Should his self-depiction here be genuine, his emotional health may have actually regressed. If his work ultimately seems somewhat masturbatory, that is somehow appropriate. It is like a car wreck you can’t stop gaping at—a car wreck, however, that is both hilariously exaggerated and cruelly humiliating. ––Gordon Flagg
 

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  Walt & Skeezix in the New York Times with Joe Matt!

Updated January 18, 2007


The New York Times
Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Art & Design

Comics
See You in the (Restored, Reprinted) Funny Papers

Drawn & Quarterly
Below, a strip from “Walt & Skeezix,” a collection of Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley.”

[image]


By BEN SCHWARTZ
Published: January 14, 2007
LOS ANGELES


A NIGHTMARE,” Joe Matt sighs. “All those years, all that money, all that work. None of which I’ll ever get back.” Mr. Matt, the graphic novelist best known for his absurdly self-centered autobiographical comic “Peepshow,” is sitting in a prefab booth at Daily Donut in Los Feliz, a neighborhood spot favored by quiet elderly customers and infrequent rushes of teenagers seeking afterschool snacks. He is speaking of his quest for the perfect collection of Frank King “Gasoline Alley” comic strips, from 1921 to 1960. Mr. Matt, who owns no home, car, computer or cellphone, estimates he has spent upward of $15,000 on his mission since 1994.

“I found dealers in comics magazines and ordered the years I wanted,” he says. “A year runs about 312 dailies, of which you can get about 290 or more. Times that by 40, at $50 each. And there’s always missing strips. I’d have to order the same year again and again just to get a few missing days. God help you if you drop them, because you have to sort 300 undated strips by story line. Then I found that different papers ran the strip at different sizes, or with better printing presses. It was maddening.”

It’s a habit Mr. Matt has had for some time. He clipped his first strip, a “Li’l Abner,” at the age of 9, in 1972. He now seeks out obscure work with little chance of getting reprinted, and Mr. King is a prime example. His collection forms the bulk of “Walt & Skeezix” (retitled from “Gasoline Alley” for licensing reasons), a decade-long, multivolume reprinting of Mr. King’s complete works published by D&Q (Drawn & Quarterly). (Volume 3 arrives in June.)

Mr. Matt is not unique among collectors. Peter Maresca, whose day job is creative director of GoComics/uClick Mobile, self-published his own collection of “Little Nemo” Sunday tearsheets as “So Many Splendid Sundays.” Fantagraphics’ “Popeye” and “Krazy Kat” series are made possible by the archivist Bill Blackbeard, and IDW’s “Complete Dick Tracy” relies on a legion of fans, since no single run is known to exist.

Their compulsion to own an artist’s every strip — sometimes 15,000 or more — and to clip, preserve and organize them all, has helped rescue a disappearing corner of American popular culture. After decades in which comic-strip syndicates and libraries have been purging themselves of paper archives for microfilm, their collections are often all that’s left.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” said Kim Thompson, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the publisher of popular graphic novels like Daniel Clowes’s “Ghost World.” Fantagraphics began issuing “complete” projects in the 1980s, with multivolume collections of “Popeye” and “Prince Valiant,” and currently with George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” (as “Krazy & Ignatz,” for licensing reasons), an improved “Popeye” and Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts.”

Mr. Thompson has resorted to making pleas on the Internet for rare strips, and fans turned up what he needed: “Even with ‘Peanuts,’ where Schulz maintained an archive, we have one fan, Marcie — yes, same name as the ‘Peanuts’ character — who compiled a database on her own that lets her plug in the date of any strip, and it tells her wherever that particular strip has ever been reprinted.”

Until recently the market for many of these projects was limited to other collectors, and weak sales doomed some earlier multivolume series like “Little Orphan Annie” in the middle of their runs.

But today’s collections show more commercial promise, thanks in large part to graphic literature successes like “Maus,” “Jimmy Corrigan,” “Ghost World” and “Persepolis.” Fantagraphics says it has sold about 100,000 copies of the first volume of “The Complete Peanuts” since 2004, and it issues new volumes twice a year. The publisher has also sold 10,000 to 16,000 copies each of the first three “Krazy & Ignatz” collections and is issuing an eighth volume next month. “The Complete Dick Tracy” sold out a 7,500-copy printing last October; a second printing is due in late February, with Volume 2 scheduled for April.

“There’s a younger audience that’s grown up during this renaissance in cartooning,” said the cartoonist known as Seth who designs “The Complete Peanuts.” “Probably in their early 20s, they grew up reading, say, ‘Eightball,’ as teenagers. So they’re well prepared for this, and it’s not a big stretch for them to embrace comics history.”

That history is refreshed by today’s top graphic novelists, who design art-book quality presentations, often contribute historical essays and cleverly rework the art into endpapers. Chris Ware, the creator of “Jimmy Corrigan,” designs the “Krazy & Ignatz” and “Walt & Skeezix” series, while Adrian Tomine designs a series of work by the Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Jeet Heer, a historian who edits the Herriman and King sets, said: “They make them seem fresh and alive, not just something of antiquarian interest. Those earlier reprint series — ‘Terry and the Pirates,’ ‘Flash Gordon,’ ‘Prince Valiant’ — appealed largely to men in their 50s and 60s who wanted to relive their boyhood. The new crop of books aren’t being read by people who have a nostalgic memory of first reading them.”

Chris Oliveros, the publisher of D&Q, said: “Artists like Ware and Tomine make it possible to bypass the superhero-dominated comic book shops for the general reading public. We’re introducing this as good work that should have an audience.”

To do so, the work is emphasized, not the kitsch merchandising that the more popular strips often generate. Seth’s “Peanuts” covers are minimal, for example, focusing on the emotions of Schulz’s strips rather than the crowd-pleasing imagery of Snoopy’s Red Baron or Lucy’s psychiatry booth.

“The world of Charles Schulz at the drawing board is an entirely different world from the Charles Schulz in stores, television, theaters or Japan,” said David Michaelis, the author of the forthcoming “Schulz: A Biography.” “What Seth has done is take a diamond out of its old setting, polished it and reset it in a way that makes it sparkle more.

“He’s gone into Schulz, with a camera eye, deeply into the images, and pulled out passages and expanded. That’s not Schulz, that’s Seth. It doesn’t take away. It builds it back up. He’s remaking him. It’s one of the more generous gifts one graphic artist has ever given another.”

Ted Adams of IDW said he hoped to reintroduce readers to the dark, brutal imagination of Chester Gould. “People first asked me, ‘Dick Tracy?’ Why are you reprinting that? It’s so vanilla,’ ” he said. “I think their memories come from the Warren Beatty movie, which I like. But that’s not Gould.”

“This is a 1930s police procedural about a cop who does what it takes,” he continued. “It’s not vanilla. It’s ‘The Shield.’ ”

Physical restoration of the strips is aided greatly by digital technology: missing letters are “cloned” from other word balloons, faded colors balanced and missing backgrounds transposed from similar panels.

“It wouldn’t have been possible 5 to 10 years ago,” Mr. Thompson said. “The results are so much better. Back then we shot photostats from tearsheets and then repainted corrections by hand. Now it’s scanned into the computer and fixed with Photoshop.”

For Mr. Maresca, the self-publisher of his “Little Nemo” collection, it comes down to “the high tech saving the low tech.” He founded Sunday Press Books in his home, restored his own tearsheets using Photoshop and reissued them at original newspaper size. For the first time in a century Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo” appears as intended, in a coffee-table book. It sold out a 5,000-copy print run, and Mr. Maresca plans a similar Frank King Sunday book with Mr. Ware.

Perhaps the best example of the renewed interest in classic cartooning is Mr. King’s “Gasoline Alley,” now renamed “Walt & Skeezix” after its father and son protagonists. Obscure to even devoted comics fans, the strip’s only real selling point today is Mr. King’s storytelling.

The first volume, which has sold over 10,000 copies since 2005, begins in 1921, when Mr. King reluctantly sent his only son off to boarding school. Soon after, he dropped the infant Skeezix on Walt’s doorstep.

“This suggests that the strip is essentially King’s imaginary life with a son who was no longer there,” Mr. Ware says. “King’s strip took the formal structure of the regular, daily appearance of the comic strip and used it as a real-time medium to tell an almost 50-year long story about American middle-class life. Children grow up, get married, go to war, have children of their own and then have grandchildren.”

Surprisingly, Mr. King’s revival has found a dissenter in his No. 1 fan, Mr. Matt. “Kind of a drag, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, I love the books, but where’s my compensation?”

He said he wasn’t talking about the $540 that D&Q paid for his collection, or about credit, although he makes sure in the new “Peepshow” to remind readers who introduced D&Q to Mr. King’s work. No, he sees himself as the victim of an O. Henry-type twist ending, one in which his collecting defeated its own purpose.

“I never intended to put out the books,” Mr. Matt said. “I did it so that I could read Frank King whenever I wanted. I concentrated on him because I thought he’d never be reprinted. I mean, what are the odds? Of course they’re reprinting ‘Peanuts.’ But King? Now anybody can buy one.”
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Featured artists

Joe Matt
Frank King
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

           Featured products

Abandon The Old In Tokyo
Walt and Skeezix: 1923-1924 (Volume Two)
Peepshow #14




JOE MATT interviewed by the McGill Daily

Updated December 8, 2006


The McGill Daily
November 23, 2006

Volume 96, Number 22

Peepshow cartoonist talks shit, cum, and blowing his brains out

Cartoonist Joe Matt recently released his latest issue of Peepshow after an almost five-year hiatus. As he details in the comic, his addiction to pornography took up much of this time. The McGill Daily spoke to him about bodily functions, emotional trauma, and his friends Seth and Chester Brown.
 
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Joe Matt

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Peepshow #14




  Matt: "Just wait until I get my Hollywood money!"

Updated April 28, 2004


After a year or two of hearing "Just wait until I get my Hollywood money' as well as a transcontinental move to the west coast, news of Joe Matt's pending television show has hit the Hollywood trades. Don't forget us when you're famous joe!

HBO Preps 'Poor Bastard' Series
Tue Apr 27, 2004 02:17 AM ET

By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - HBO is teaming up with one of the creators of "Futurama" to develop a potential series based on the cult comic book "The Poor Bastard."

The book, also known as a "graphic novel," was written by artist Joe Matt, based on his own life experiences. Among the myriad woes he contends with in his romantic life is an addiction to pornography.

David X. Cohen, who developed "Futurama" with "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, would serve as executive producer alongside "Simpsons" scribe Donick Carey and Matt.

Although HBO has yet to see a script, the premium channel was hooked on the concept for the series, which could blend live-action and animation in a manner similar to the HBO Films theatrical release "American Splendor." Like "Splendor" protagonist Harvey Pekar, Matt recounts his frustrations with relationships in unsparing detail.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured products

Fair Weather (PB)
The Poor Bastard (PB)
Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt (PB)




SF Weekly Spotlights D+Q, Tomine & Matt

Updated December 17, 2003


The Bay Area SF Weekly spotlights D+Q, Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt to celebrate the publisher's indy press party at the bookstore Modern Times.

Hiya Swanhuyser describes Adrian Tomine's work as "amazing" and that it is "emblematic" of D+Q.

Hiya further praises the company by stating "The company is at the forefront of a new art form within the publishing world: the graphic novel..."
 

Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt

           Featured products

Fair Weather (PB)
Summer Blonde (PB)




  D+Q Party at SF's Modern Times w/ Tomine & Matt

Updated December 17, 2003


The San Francisco bookstore MODERN TIMES will be having an "indy press party" for D+Q as the Montreal-based publisher is the store's indy press of the month.

JOE MATT, who will be making his first Bay-Area appearance in sometime, and ADRIAN TOMINE will be at the party to answer questions and sign books.

Be there this Saturday, December 13th at 7:30 PM at 888 Valencia St.

At the party, we will also hand out Spring 2004 catalogue/sampler. The D+Q site will be updated soon to reflect the new releases.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt

           Featured products

Fair Weather (PB)
Summer Blonde (PB)




Modern Times features D+Q; Sacco, Tomine & Matt to sign

Updated November 24, 2003



MODERN TIMES FEATURES DRAWN & QUARTERLY AS ITS INDEPENDENT PRESS
OF THE MONTH FOR DECEMBER

Renowned Cartoonists Joe Sacco, Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt to Make Appearances

The landmark San Francisco bookselling institution, Modern Times, is featuring one of the world’s leading publishers of art & literary comics, the Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, as its independent press of the month for December. As part of the month-long celebration, Modern Times will feature all D+Q titles at 25% off and will host an event for Joe Sacco and indy press party with Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt.

On Thursday, December 4th at 7:30, American Book Award-wining war correspondent/cartoonist Joe Sacco will present his new graphic novel THE FIXER, which has been named one of Publishers Weekly’s books of the year for 2003. In his new book, the author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde returns to post-war Bosnia and paints a compelling portrait of his associate Neven, a Sarajevo Serb loyal to the Bosnian government. Neven was one of the many "fixers" who sell war correspondents human tragedy and moral outrage stories in order to survive when the bombs are falling. Sacco will be on hand to sign and discuss THE FIXER.

On Saturday, December 13 at 7:30 PM Modern Times will host an Indy press party for D+Q with Bay Area resident Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt. Tomine, who novelist Nick Hornby called a "great talent" in his New York Times Books Review of 2002 graphic novels, will sign and discuss his work including SUMMER BLONDE and 32 STORIES. Joe Matt who will be making his first San Francisco appearance ever and his first bay Area signing in over five years, will be signing and discussing all three of his acclaimed graphic novels including POOR BASTARD, PEEPSHOW and FAIR WEATHER.

Modern Times is located at 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

ABOUT MODER N TIMES:
Modern Times is a progressive bookstore for San Francisco, located in the Mission District. Since 1971, Modern Times has offered wide-ranging literature on globalization, politics and media. Additionally, Modern Times features cutting edge titles in cultural studies, criticism, fiction, and increasingly, graphic novels. Modern Times maintains informed sexuality and gender sections, and features one of the Bay Area's most extensive collections of writings on Latina/o history and culture, complimented by a full selection of Spanish language books. And did we mention our children's books? Modern Times also fosters a vital literary community with an exciting calendar of author events.

ABOUT DRAWN & QUARTERLY:
With cartoonists that have been instrumental in defining the literary comics medium for the past twenty years, Drawn & Quarterly has become one of the most influential art and literary comics publishers in North America, if not the whole world. Book lovers, who appreciate exceptional quality in literature and design, laud D+Q for creating elegant objects that transcend the boundaries of books and comics. D+Q has grown from being a periodical company to a book publisher with over 20 titles a year and an extraordinary backlist of perennial best-selling titles that are regarded as literary classics.

For more information contact:

Amanda Davidson
Modern Times Bookstore
Mtbs@moderntimesbookstore.com
415-282-7025

Peggy Burns
Drawn & Quarterly
peggy@drawnandquarterly.com
514-279-0691


 
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt

           Featured products

The Fixer
Fair Weather (PB)
Summer Blonde (PB)




Quill & Quire reviews Fair Weather

Updated August 20, 2003


Quill & Quire: Canada's Magazine of Book News and Reviews
January 2003

Emotional geography

Joe Matt's autobiographical Peepshow was part of a wave of groundbreaking North American alternative comics in the early 1990s. Matt's unflinching and unflattering portrayal of every sordid of his catholic-guilt-ridden psyche earned him a reputation as an uncomprimising artist that helped to lead other comic artists to begin their own autobiographical works. He gave them permission to be brutally honest because, after all, they couldn't be as bad or just plain petty as Joe Matt.

Matt eventually explored his childhoos in Fair weather, now collected for the firsttime. The bold simple lines contrast the intense, contradictory emotions and complex relationships of childhood. Matt effectively uses a slowed, steady pacing to navigate the reader through the emotional geography that make's up a boy's world--his mother, his sister, his sole friend Dave, rides on his bicycle, his neighborhood, his comics collection. But this is no sentimental journey. matt shows himself as a manipulative, selfis outcast alienating himself from everyone, and his clever use of metaphor--such as kids' comics trading as a commentary on the nature of capitalism--allow for multiple readings.


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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Fair Weather (PB)




Joe Matt: loved in Harrisburg, PA

Updated June 17, 2003


Joe Matt's new book, Fair Weather, was recently reviewed in Harrisburg's daily newspaper The Patriot News. It somehow seems fitting that a paper with the motto "Now you know" would feature a Joe Matt review in its pages. Click on the PDF below for the clipping.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured products

Fair Weather (PB)
Fair Weather (HC)




Entertainment Weekly on Comics: Fair Weather

Updated April 23, 2003


Entertainment Weekly April 25, 2003

"Autobiographical comics" are often marked by boorish mopishness, but Joe Matt's hilarious self-eviscerations are an exception. Fair Weather--collected from the cartoonist's continuing series Peepshow--portrays the artist as a greedy young geek warring with his mother and willing to sell out his only friend for a comic book. Richly evoking a '70s suburban childhood without sentimentality, Matt's poignant graphic novella is as refreshing as a Slurpee on a muggy afternoon."

Grade: A
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Fair Weather (PB)




Shy Librarians love GNs & Joe Matt

Updated April 15, 2003


SHY ARCHIVE ARTICLE: Vol. 3, No. 1: Spring 2003
The Comics' Librarian™
By Stephen Weiner

Over the past several months, graphic novels have become a hot topic in libraries, in library literature, and at library conferences. Many collection development aids have either started reviewing graphic novels or have beefed up their graphic novel reviewing sections, while vendors scramble to provide librarians with the best graphic novel acquisition services available.

Librarians have to ask themselves if these services put too great an emphasis on popular materials. Although it is important to collect books that will grab the patron's attention, it’s equally important to strengthen the fine art component of your library's graphic novel collection.

The adult fiction prose collection may rely on best sellers such as Danielle Steele or Robert Parker, but most libraries also buy books by writers such as Louise Erdrich and Saul Bellow. This same diversity often exists in most divisions within a library's collection.

Librarians should consider purchasing graphic novels that help the parameters of the comics' industry expand. Some graphic novel publishing companies, such as CrossGen (crossgen.com), have reformatted their product to make it more accessible to the library field. This trend will grow in the future, and librarians may see graphic novels specifically developed for the library market.

This is a complete turnaround from the mid-1950s, when the government attempted to close the comic book industry down on charges that it encouraged juvenile delinquency. One major difference that occurred during the last 50 years is the creation of a "library" of quality graphic novels.

With that in mind, the books selected for this issue's column probably won't circulate to the degree a superhero or manga book might. However, given consistent attention, these books will deepen your library's collection and help educate the reading public to the wide array of quality graphic novels available.
_________________________

Autobiographical cartoonist Joe Matt serves up an unsentimental tale of childhood obsession with comic books while portraying the protagonist himself as a collection of obsessions and traumas. This books offers a biting look at comic book fans by a seasoned cartoonist.


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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Fair Weather (PB)




  2003 Eisner Nominations: 2 D&Q faves

Updated April 14, 2003


Congratulations to long time D&Q friends and artists Chester Brown and Joe Matt.

Chester Brown was nominated for Louis Riel for Best Continuing Series.

Joe Matt's graphic novel Fair Weather was nominated for best graphic album (reprint)
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Matt

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Fair Weather (PB)




Comic Book Galaxy Review: Fair Weather

Updated March 17, 2003


Comic Book Galaxy, December 15 2002
"We see the seeds of the cheap, competitive and scheming tightwad that Matt depicts himself as having grown into as an adult."

"Joe Matt is one of the most compelling and gifted cartoonists working the upper reaches of the arts comics scene over the past decade, and Fair Weather shows you an unexpectedly nostalgic yet genuine and credible view of the past from what seems like an honest and straightforward observer. As autobiographical comics go, the focus is a bit unusual but entirely welcome. They don't get a whole lot better than this. Grade: 4.5/5"
 
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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Fair Weather (PB)




  Fair Weather Book of the Day on Booksense.com

Updated March 17, 2003


The indy bookseller web site Booksense (www.booksense.com) has a daily book pick and on January 21 2003 they picked Joe Matt's graphic novel Fair Weather.

"Matt provides a hilariously frank look at his 1970s suburban childhood in this new graphic novel. Joe’s ridiculous level of self-absorption can be unnerving, but the conclusion is surprisingly quiet and sweet natured. One of the more realistic portraits of childhood available."


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Featured artist

Joe Matt

           Featured product

Fair Weather (PB)





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